2007 Archive

Rallying in India, 2007
Excerpt from an article in Kalinga Times, India by Rally correspondent Anand Philar

.........On the rally front, MRF introduced the promising 26-year old from Delhi , Gaurav Gill, as the third member of their team in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), along side Katsu Taguchi ( Japan ) and Jussi Valimakki ( Finland ). Gill, however, had a disastrous start, crashing his brand new Mitsubishi Evo9 on debut in New Caledonia .

Gaurav Gill
Gill sat out the next three rounds before returning to Malaysia and then on to Indonesia and China , but driving an underpowered Evo7. As a team, MRF were not on pace with Subaru's Cody Crocker, the Aussie winning his second consecutive APRC title.

The second Indian in APRC, national champion V.R. Naren Kumar from Coimbatore , managed two podium finishes. But running on a shoestring budget as a private entry, he was not always on pace in a patched up Evo9. Later, he had a successful test drive with Subaru in Wales and budget permitting, he could become the first Indian to take part in the World Rally Championship (production class) in 2008.

Naren Kumar
At home, the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) virtually collapsed with only four of the original seven rounds run. The introduction of N+ class demanded huge investment in terms of new car besides electrical and mechanical components and there were few takers.

It left MRF as the sole major competitor with arch-rivals JK Tyre, after a brief return to INRC the previous year, pulling out saying the huge budgets to prepare Group N+ cars could not be justified.

Further, the authorities overlooked the point that the Special Stages in India could barely handle the speed and power of 200bhp cars. The final round in Pune saw top two MRF drivers, Gill and Arjun Balu, both in Mitsubishi Cedia, pulling out citing safety concerns. Gill, though was crowned National champion, having won the three previous rounds.

Green to drive WRC car at Asia-Pacific opener
By Penny Miles - Manawatu Standard | Wednesday, 19 December 2007

[Ed Note: This article features APRC veteran and long time supporter Brian Green. 'Greenie' finished 4th in the 2007 APRC with a 2nd place in China and 3rd in Malaysia.]

Brian Green - APRC China
A blown clutch, punctures, muddy roads, a large rat in his Chinese hotel room - Brian Green has had it all this year.

As the veteran rally driver contemplates one of his best years on the world rally circuit, he is already making preparations for the next one. A Ford Focus world championship car has been jacked up to race in April's Asia-Pacific Rally, and co- driver Fleur Pederson, 30, will again be on hand to navigate.

Slowing down isn't part of the plan, and the fast-talking 60-year- old says rallying is a great way to mix business with pleasure. The Palmerston North property developer has met all kinds of influential businessmen on the world circuit and credits motorsport for several large deals. Two recent opportunities in China, a development in Queensland, and connections with local company Linfox, all came through rallying.

Green first caught the rally bug back in 1969. He entered a race in the South Island with Robert Leicester and has never looked back. Green even tried his hand at organising one. In 1971, he and National MP Lockwood Smith joined forces to stage Palmerston North's Silver Fern Rally - the largest in New Zealand.

Driving, though, is his passion.

Green & Pedersen - 2nd APRC China
Green loves the action, the adrenaline buzz, and the break from day-to-day life. "The bit that I really do enjoy is that I run a very big business, and the whole time no matter what you're doing, you are always thinking about things that are on the go, and the phone is always ringing. I can get in that rally car with the phone turned off. By Sunday night I'm physically buggered - your arms are sore, your eyes are shot - but I've had two-and-a-half days of no telephone and I'm mentally totally relaxed."

Green spends around one-in-three weekends away rallying, a third of the year, but he says the time out of the office doesn't affect his work. "I work smartly and I've got very good staff who have been with me for a long time. Successful people, they make sure every minute they spend they're getting somewhere."

Green has also travelled the world through sport. This year he competed in the 75th Rally of Great Britain, and the week before, lined up at Rally Ireland in his Mitsubishi Evo 8. Green said he won't be in a hurry to return to gloomy Britain though. He prefers racing in Asia where the roads aren't as slick and the time difference is better suited to business phone calls back home.

"You won't hear me ever complain about the heat and dust anymore; I'd far rather cope with that." Green joked, in reference to the short daylight hours in Britain. In Wales, Green watched, with a tinge of sadness, a memorial ceremony for his friend and racing hero Colin McRae, who was killed in a helicopter accident in September.

Next year, Green will if anything be picking up the pace. He'll start the year travelling to Queenstown to look at multi-million dollar property developments. Then he'll be back in his car preparing for the Chinese championship and April's Asia-Pacific Rally in New Caledonia.

"I've got a lot of friends that they think an exciting day is getting out of bed on a Saturday morning and doing the garden - I'd be bored stiff doing that."

APRC Season Highlights on television

Following are the transmission dates for the 2007 Asia Pacific Rally Championship season highlights, a one-hour show that features all seven rallies in the championship and all the teams and drivers. The Season Highlights will also be aired in January by other broadcasters including China's GD-TV, the world-wide motorshows MotorSport Mundial and Max Power plus several Asian Airlines.

FoxSports Australia
FOX1 13/12/2007 7:00:00 AM Thursday
FOX2 13/12/2007 6:30:00 PM Thursday
FOX2 14/12/2007 3:30:00 PM Friday
FOX2 17/12/2007 9:00:00 AM Monday
StarHub SuperSports (Channel 22)
Dec 20 - 9pm -10pm, Thurs
Dec 22- 6pm - 7pm , Sat
Dec 23 - 3pm -4pm , Sun
Motors-TV UK
Dec 22 1500
Dec 24 0500
Dec 25 0200
Dec 25 1400
Dec 25 1900
Dec 26 1030
Dec 28 1600
Motors-TV Europe
Dec 22 1400
Dec 23 0500
Dec 24 1100
Dec 25 1900
Dec 25 2330
Dec 26 0830
Dec 28 1530
Dec 29 0500
SKY Sports New Zealand
Dec 21 13:00 Sport 2
Dec 21 18:30 Sport 3
Dec 21 22:30 Sport 1
Dec 22 15:00 Sport 3
Dec 27 19:00 Sport 1

An expanded version of the TV programme and extra in-car footage from each event is available on DVD, further details
are at http://www.aprc.tv/dvd.php

APRC Rally of Canberra aims for more international teams

Jussi Valimaki
The APRC Rally of Canberra organisers are looking forward to welcoming an increased number of international teams when the rally returns to the nation's capital next May.

Run as a joint round of the NEC Australian Rally Championship and the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, the rally already has strong support from international teams; however the announcement last week of a new cup being introduced into the APRC in 2008 has the potential to increase this number even further.

The FIA has approved two new drivers awards for the 2008 season - the Pacific Cup and the Asia Cup - with the Pacific Cup likely to have a positive effect on the number of international crews participating in the APRC Rally of Canberra, by making it more affordable for them to compete.

"The 'Cup' concept is an exciting new development that will allow teams to compete in international events, without the expense of doing the full APRC championship," said APRC Team's Coordinator Murray Brown. "I am confident of a strong turn out for next year and believe the inclusion of both Cups will boost entries at all events."

The Pacific Cup will involve teams competing in the three Pacific rounds of the APRC, those being Rally New Caledonia, Rally of Canberra, and Rally of Whangerei. "It is a great initiative and I am glad that we can be a part of it," said APRC Rally of Canberra organiser Mike Bell. "The APRC Rally of Canberra is known as one of the best rallies on the APRC calendar, and the Pacific Cup has the potential to bring more international crews to Australia which will be a huge boost for the event."

Simon Evans
2006/2007 NEC Australian Rally Champion, Toyota Racing Development's Simon Evans, is looking forward to Rally of Canberra and is hopeful the new initiative will introduce Australian rallying to more international crews. "Rally of Canberra is a fantastic event, not only do we get a chance to compete on the same stages as some great international drivers, but we get to showcase what rallying in Australia is all about to international rally fans and media," said Evans. "We have a great group of competitors in the NEC ARC and every event provides a new challenge, but I always look forward to the opportunity to see how we stack up against some of the international drivers," he added.

With the World Rally Championship round, Rally Australia, being postponed until 2009, the APRC Rally of Canberra will now provide the sole opportunity in 2008 for international crews to compete in Australia on an international licence. "It is disappointing that Rally Australia could not get off the ground in time for 2008, however the APRC Rally of Canberra provides top level international rallying," said Bell. "It is a wonderful showcase of Australian roads and provides local drivers the chance to compete against International drivers."

Cody Crocker
Former Australian Rally Champion and current APRC Champion Cody Crocker is excited about the potential both the Pacific Cup and its counterpart the Asia Cup have for the APRC. "I always love coming back and competing in Australia, it's great to get back out on the roads and compare times with guys like Simon (Toyota Racing Development's Simon Evans)," said Crocker. "Canberra is one of best places in the world to go rallying and the APRC Rally of Canberra is a fantastic event, it has great infrastructure and fantastic roads, best of all it is different every year, you are always challenged in new ways whenever you return."

"If the new cup concept can increase the number of international crews coming to Australia then it is only going to strengthen the rally further," added Crocker.

The APRC Rally of Canberra will be held in the forests around Canberra 10th - 11th May 2008.

Arai wins Production Car World Rally Championship

2007 P-WRC Champion Toshi Arai
& APRC Champion Cody Crocker celebrate
Toshi Arai has won the Production Car World Championship for a second time after the competition faulted and retired from Rally GB. Following is an interview with Toshi just after he was crowned
2007 P-WRC champion.

How does it feel to win the P-WRC for the second time?
"I'm very pleased although I didn't enjoy Higgins and Pozzo retiring. I was just relieved. After Japan I had a really bad feeling but I was convinced 90% that I could win - I just couldn't do anything but I have never experienced waiting like that, as in 2005 we won the Championship on our last rally."

Would you have preferred to have finished the season later - in Ireland or GB?
"No, but it wasn't easy. I watched Higgins in Mexico where he won and it was then I realised he was a very fast driver. He wasn't constant though as he has often retired but in Mexico he made no mistakes and then I realised he was a strong driver. After Japan I watched Higgins closely so I was a little relieved after Ireland."

Was this year's victory harder than 2005? Was the competition tough this season with so many national champions contesting P-WRC?
"A lot harder! During 2005 I wanted to show my speed on every rally - it was important to win rallies but the championship wasn't so important for me. On the first rally in Sweden this year there were so many fast drivers that I had the confidence I could win but it was too hard. My tactics were to fight over the long term rather than rally by rally - it was important this year to win the Championship. The competitors this year were of a high standard - lots of national champions with good experience and different styles. It was a difficult season with a really good chance to fight. Most years there are about five real challengers but this year there were at least 10."

Toshi Arai
What was your best moment of this year?
"My best moment this year was in New Zealand because we had a real fight with Niall McShea. In the rallies this year I have usually attacked about 80-90% maximum as my aim was to be consistent throughout the year but in New Zealand it was more like 110%. It was very important to be on maximum attack as it was the only way to test the limit and improve my performance."

Do you have any special celebrations planned in Japan?
"I've already had a small celebration with my family and friends but we have plans for a bigger one with STi, my sponsors and journalists, maybe next week."

What do you think of the new car?
"The new car is a third generation Impreza and it's very, very good, especially the rear suspension. It has changed from McPherson struts to double wishbone so the grip is much better and it doesn't break so easily. It's more stable, especially in the fast sections. The chassis and engine are third generation - in fact, it's all different so we'll have to modify everything. I'm a bit anxious about any unknown troubles so we'll have to do some more testing."

Have you decided what six events you will contest in 2008? Will you contest more rounds and will you tackle any Asia Pacific events?
"We haven't decided which events we'll do next year but it will probably start with Sweden. The conditions in Sweden will be good for the new car as there won't be much stress for it on the snow. We don't have any plans for APRC but if the sponsors offer then I would like to have the chance to do the APRC too."

Where were you when you heard Higgins had crashed out in Ireland, what was your reaction and did you consider him to be more of a threat than Pozzo?
"I was in Japan so I was sleeping so I only heard the next morning. I wasn't pleased for Higgins as he is a friend. Maybe just a little relieved!"

WRC07NZ Toshi Arai
What did you think of Higgins contesting three events with a broken left collarbone?
"From a professional point of view it wasn't good as he broke it while keeping fit, which is something we all have to do, so that wasn't good. But Japan wasn't the perfect conditions for me as I prefer to be able to fight with Mark when he is fit, not injured."

And regarding Pozzo's retirement in Great Britain when you secured your second title, where were you and what was your reaction?
"Also sleeping! I felt bad for Pozzo although I was quietly confident as Pozzo has no experience in GB and experience is so important there, especially with drivers like Higgins and Wilks for competition."

Why did you not contest the rallies in Ireland and GB?
"I really don't like these rallies because of the rain as it's slippery, muddy and foggy and I don't like any of these conditions. I would do them if they were in spring or summer as I have some experience of that weather from when I lived in UK but I really don't like the winter conditions."

You've driven a World Rally Car in the past, do you have ambitions to drive one again in the future?
"Yes I would like to. It depends on STi and my sponsors but now we have another P-WRC title, maybe it will be possible. Next year I would like to do at least one event in a World Rally Car - Japan - and if possible a couple more too. We'll have to wait and see."

See video footage of Toshi Arai at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFr0XQ-GO6Y
See Photographs at : http://www.linear-photographs.com/WRC07-RNZ/index.asp

Paddon out of WRC Rally GB

Hayden Paddon - Winner APRC Rally of Whangarei
Young New Zealand rally driver Hayden Paddon has been forced out of the British round of the FIA World Rally Championship overnight.

The 20-year-old Geraldine, South Canterbury, driver retired from Wales Rally GB during the fifth stage of leg two on Saturday. A cracked front sub-frame in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9 resulted in collapsed front suspension.

Fortunately the breakage occurred on a straight section of road and resulted in no further damage. The 2007 NZ Rally Championship runner-up had hoped the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship would be a testing learning curve. Instead it's been a school of hard knocks.

Paddon and co-driver John Kennard (Blenheim) retired from Friday's first leg with a broken front hub and an eventful run on Saturday saw them slowed with the engine down on power and also lose time changing a puncture in the fourth stage. "In the next stage the front suspension folded under and pushed the wheel right back in the arch," said Paddon. "There's too much damage to repair it and restart for the final leg. It's disappointing and there aren't really any small highlights to report", said Paddon.

"When we rejoined today there was still the chance to make an impression and show what we can do but we never got the chance. The car felt down on power and top end speed for some reason and although we tried hard our best stage time in the Production WRC class was 10th fastest. That's rallying sometimes. We've learnt a lot here and we'll just have to come back next year and try again."

The British event was Paddon's first experience of rallying offshore. Paddon Direct Team Green shifts its focus to preparing and testing a new Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9 for the 2008 NZ Rally Championship.

New awards for APRC 2008 - UPDATE

A Competitor Can Win the 2008 APRC and Either the Asia or Pacific Cup
Further interpretation of the 2008 APRC regulations reveals that it is possible to enter the full APRC and contest either of the Asia or Pacific cups - but not both. The exact wording is found in regulation 1.4.1 "Each competitor (entrant), driver and co-driver must register with the FIA to be eligible for any Asia Cup or Pacific Cup awards and the registration may be for either Cup but not both. Registration for either Cup together with an APRC registration is permitted". Further explanation can be found in regulations 1.4.3 and 1.4.4.

New awards for APRC 2008 - The Pacific and Asia Cups

Following on from confirmation of the APRC calendar, comes the regulations for 2008 and as predicted the FIA have approved new drivers awards for next season – the Pacific Cup and the Asia Cup.

Motor Image Team 2007
The ‘Cup’ concept is an exciting new development that will allow teams to compete in international events, without the expense of doing the full APRC championship. Many drivers already enter their own event and many enter two, adding a third in their region is viable and achievable for many competitors.

While the two cups will be totally separate from the APRC award, the same benefits will apply to the Cup entrants including collective shipping and coordination, inclusion in the global TV coverage, seeding at the head of the field, primary positions at service parks – plus the opportunity to compete in international events with the associated exposure and experience.

A summary of the new regulations are as follows:
      • Introduction of Asia Cup and Pacific Cup – minimum 3 events each region
      • Pacific Cup – nominate 3 events (of 3) prior to close of entries for first event
      • Asia Cup – nominate 3 events (of 4) prior to close of entries for first event contested
      • Teams must register for only one competition – either the full APRC or the Asia and/or Pacific cups
      • APRC - Nominate 6 events prior to close entries of first event to be contested
      • APRC – 5 events to be contested to be included in final classification, of the 6 nominated at registration
      • Penalty for any missed APRC events is the entry fee – to be paid to event organizers
      • 45 min service is now flexi service at each event
A new tyre rule has been introduced for all regional rally championships in 2008, specifying that all tyres used in competition must be commercially available.

While its too early to predict drivers and teams for next year, current champion Cody Crocker has a two-year agreement with the Motor Image team and therefore it is almost certain the Australian will return to defend his title for a third year in a new shape Subaru Impreza. Mitsubishi's new Group N rally car the Evo 10 is not expected to compete until the end of 2008.

APRC team’s coordinator Murray Brown commented that “I’ve had considerable interest from teams and drivers for APRC 2008. I am very confident of a strong turn out for next year and believe the inclusion of the Asia Cup and Pacific Cup will boost entries at all the events. The introduction of the Cups provides an opportunity for those drivers and teams who may not have the resources to complete the full 6 APRC rounds, but could successfully contest 3 rounds, including their home event.

FIA ASIA PACIFIC RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP - 2008 (Drivers, Co-drivers and Manufacturers Cup)
1. 12-13 AprilRallye de Nouvelle Caledonia
2. 10-11 MayRally of Canberra - Australia
3. 07-08 JuneRally of Whangarei - New Zealand
4. 12-13 JulyRally Hokkaido - Japan
5. 23-24 AugustGudang Garam International Rally Indonesia - Makasar
6. 11-12 OctoberJohor Baharu, Malaysia
7. 08-09 NovemberChina Rally

Crocker wins China Rally and APRC Manufacturers' title for Subaru

Glenn Tan (Motor Image) and Cody Crocker
Subaru rally driver Cody Crocker has completed a magnificent season by taking outright honours in Rally China and securing the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship Manufacturers’ title for Subaru for the second year in a row.

Crocker and co-driver Ben Atkinson had already claimed the APRC driver’s championship even before the Chinese round, but today’s victory rounded out a season that saw the pair win five of the six rounds they contested. Driving the MotorImage entered Impreza WRX STI, Crocker proved what a real champion he is driving to the conditions, while all his major opposition in APRC either crashed off or went out of the event with mechanical problems.

In the APRC category there was only one other finisher, Brian Green bringing his Wan Ya Rally Team Mitsubishi home in 2nd but over ten minutes behind Crocker. In the overall event, also part of the China Rally Championship (CRC) and the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) Crocker crushed the opposition and finished the two-day event one minute 29.8 seconds clear of UK driver David Higgins, with another Chinese driver, Lang Xu, a further one minute 2.1 seconds back in third.

Cody Crocker
“We started the day determined to finish, and finish well,” Crocker said. “We concentrated on producing the same pace as yesterday, not wanting to push too hard, but not wanting to slacken off either, as that’s when mistakes can happen.”

“In the end it was a very comfortable pace with no risk. “There was over three hours of competitive driving across the weekend, so it was really challenging. At times the average speeds were around 50kph. It was so tight and twisty and then really cut up on the second and third passes of a stage. This has capped off a fantastic year for us and the whole Motor Image team. Securing the Manufacturers’ title for Subaru gave us a real focus for the weekend.”

While Crocker celebrated, the other teams licked their wounds. Katsu Taguchi led initially but crashed out on Stage 7 while both his team-mates, Finlands Jussi Valimaki and India driver Gaurav Gill, having engine and fuel problems. Hiroshi Yanagisawa retired on Stage 5 also with engine problems, Rifat Sungkar crashed off on Stage 7 but restarted on Day 2. Through all the carnage came Brian Green and Fleur Pederson taking a safe approach that again paid off. It was the veteran driver’s third podium of the year and moved him and Pederson into 4th overall in the Asia-Pacific drivers and co-drivers championship.

Prior to the finish podium Green said, “This event has been a very hard one, a lot of carnage along the way and fortunately we made it through. From the start we decided to drive down the middle of the road, no cuts or running wide as there was just so many things to run into. This year the roads have been much rougher and it’s tough on the gear and the crew”.

Brian Green
Rally China – Final Top Seven:
1 C Crocker/B Atkinson, Subaru
2 D Higgins/I Thomas, Mitsubishi, +1:29.8
3 L Xu/ Y Huang, Mitsubishi, +2:31.9
4 C Liu/A McLaughlin, Subaru, +2:25.6
5 J Salo/M Stenberg, Subaru, +5:10.8
6. M Rowe/D Moscatt, Mitsubishi +6.13
7. B Green/F Pederson, Mitsubishi +16.36

For Rally China results visit: www.fasc.org.cn

APRC China Rally

Latest photo's from China available here @ Linear Photographs

APRC China Rally - Subaru and Mitsubishi battle for title

2006 Rally China - Subaru
While the race for the Asia Pacific Rally Championship drivers and co-drivers title is all over with Australia's Cody Crocker and Ben Atkinson only needing to cross the start-line in next weekends China Rally to take the honors for a second year, the battle for the manufacturers title is very tight - only two points separate Subaru and Mitsubishi.

Subaru have dominated all year with 4 wins for Cody Crocker, aided by podium finishes from his Motor Image team-mate Rifat Sungkar and the Cusco Subaru of Hiroshi Yanagisawa. After six rounds Subaru has 74 points, but only a 2 point lead over rival Mitsubishi. Mitsubishi have stayed in the hunt by winning outright in New Caledonia and Indonesia and only once were they not represented on the podium with a top three finish.

WRC Rally Japan - Taguchi
Heading to China the MRF Mitsubishi team are on top form with Jussi Valimaki's win in APRC Rally Indonesia, then a week later the Finn wrapped up the Finnish National Rally Championship Title. Team-mate Katsu Taguchi is on fire too with an outstanding performance at WRC Rally of Japan, 8th overall, winning Group N and earning himself a WRC point. On the other hand Crocker will have no pressure on him with the drivers title wrapped up and therefore he will be able to make it a straight fight, with the added knowledge that Subaru dominated the event last year, while Mitsubishi failed miserably.

In the drivers championship 2nd and 3rd will be decided between Valimaki on 49 points and Taguchi on 47 - no one else can get close to them. Fourth is a battle between Kumar on 28 points, Yanagisawa 27 and Sungkar on 24. Kumar won't compete in China and his team-mate Brian Green has an outside chance of taking the spot as the kiwi currently sits on 18 points.

2006 Rally China - Mitsubishi
China Rally begins with a ceremonial start and superspecial on Friday afternoon (9th Nov) and after 223 kilometres of competitive stages finishes back in Longyou on Sunday afternoon. The event is also the final round of the China Rally Championship and the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. A huge field is expected from the China National series, while no IRC cars will be present as their championship was wrapped up by Peugeot in the pen-ultimate round - Rallye du Valais. However competitors in Mitsubishi, Honda or Volkswagen cars are eligible to score points in the IRC drivers and manufacturers championships.

Reece Jones wins Rally of Thailand
21OCT07 by Fleur Pederson

Fleur Pedersen
Brian Green / Fleur Pedersen and Reece Jones / Steve Smith competed in the International Rally of Thailand on the 13th and 14th October. The rally this year moved to a new base in Pattaya, where the ceremonial start and finish were both held. Brian Green went into the rally with the number 1 on the side of his car, and hoped to be in this position, and win the prestigious King's Cup, at the end of the weekend. Seeded at 2 was local driver Ruegchan Wittaya in an Evo 8, followed by Kasikam Suphot in an impreza. Reece Jones was next away. There were a number of Japanese drivers competing, including lady driver Nagoshi Mayumi. The lead-up to the rally was very wet, with heavy rain falling on Thursday and Friday in the leg 1 area.

Saturday consisted of three stages, run three times each. Green went into the lead early, winning stage 1 from Suphot, Wittaya then Jones. Suphot ran off the road in stage 2, and got stuck in the mud, unable to rejoin the road. He restarted the rally later in the day. By the end of the first group of 3 stages, Green held a 20 second lead over Jones, followed by Wittaya. Jones commented that he was "a bit rusty" but was getting back into it and enjoying himself.

The repeat loop saw Jones win two stages and Green 1, Green's lead now a slim 4 seconds. The third loop threatened rain, however, it didn't eventuate. This time it was a win a piece to Jones, Green and Wittaya. Green had one big moment on the last corner of stage 8, running wide off the outside of the corner and knocking over the yellow finish board. Unfortunately, this stage was not kind to Jones, as he bent an intercooler pipe just after a ford, and then, mysteriously damaged the rear codriver's door and window "without hitting anything"! Jones and Steve Smith tried to effect some roadside repairs in very limited touring time, but to no effect. At the end of day 1, Green held a 47 second advantage over jones, with Wittaya only 4 seconds back.

Leg 2 was run on the wide flowing roads around the Nong Pa Lai reservoir. It consisted of 3 passes of 2 stages. Green / Pedersen set off into the stages first, but their challenge for the king's cup was effectively over about 1km from the stage finish, when their Evo 9 lost drive. They managed to crawl out of the stage with suspected front dif failure. This immediately moved Jones to the lead, and a tight battle started between him and Wittaya, whcih would continue most of the day. Jones / Smith went on to win the next two stages and lead the rally by 16 seconds, going to the midday service. Green limped through, making it back to service, where a broken input shaft was diagnosed. Unfortunately, when this was replaced, more damaged was discovered but there was no time to fix it. Jones, on the other hand, was having a great run, enjoying the Leg 2 stages and feeling he was "back into it".

On stage 13 Wittaya pulled back 7 seconds, to narrow Jones lead to just 9 seconds with 2 stages to run. Green was experiencing a bad vibration in the car, and was just concentrating on getting to the finish of each stage, and hopefully hanging onto 3rd. Nagoshi Mayumi was having a good day, finishing the leg in third position. Jones / Smith won the next stage, opening up a 18 second buffer, with 1 stage to run. Then the rain came. It poured, the way only tropical rain can! This proved to be to Reece's advantage, as he won the last stage by 38 seconds, to take out overall honours by exactly 1 min. Wittaya was second overall, with Brian Green / Fleur Pedersen holding onto 3rd. Nagoshi Mayumi was a very happy 4th overall.

Jones commented that he had a "very enjoyable weekend, codriver Steve and I clicked very well. I entered the event for a bit of fun, and to come away with a win, and the King's Cup, was an added bonus. I do feel sorry for Brian though, it was unfortunate what happened to him today, I was looking forward to chasing him."

Brian was philosophical, commenting that in the morning "we almost had one hand on the cup, but it wasn't to be. We are very happy, however, that Reece and Steve won the event. Providing our programme next year allows it, we certainly intend to be back to try again."

Both New Zealand crews were impressed with the organisation and running of the event, and congratulated the Rally of Thailand organisers on a "job well done"

APRC Season Television Highlights - Europe and Asia-Pacific broadcasters
The 2007 APRC one-hour season highlights will be televised in peak-time to over 30 European countries and into 16 million homes via motorsport channel Motors-TV. Scheduled for broadcast the evening of December 22, the channel will then run repeats five or six times over the following week.

In the Asia-Pacific region broadcasters Fox Sport Australia, SKY TV New Zealand, Guangdong-TV China, StarHub Singapore plus several Asian based airlines have signed with APRC TV to air the 07 Season highlights. The Season Highlights will also be available on DVD with extended on-board sequences from each event of the championship.

Naren Kumar
KUMAR Tests for P-WRC
Team Rally India driver Naren Kumar at a two day evaluation test with the Subaru World Rally Team in Wales recently. Under difficult conditions Kumar was rated highly by the Banbury based team and chief evaluator Geoff Jones had high praise for Kumar "I think Naren is capable of a top five finish in the PWRC," . After the test Kumar was non-commital on his future plans, which are still primarily with the 2008 APRC " We only did a evaluation test with Prodrive , nothing has been finalised as a lot of things will have to fall in place. This was only a test".
Rifat Sungkar
SUNGKAR to carry the Olympic Torch
Indonesia's Rifat Sungkar is one of ten sports personalties and celebrities that will carry the Olympic torch on its way through Indonesia and onwards to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Motor Image Subaru driver was thrilled to be selected and will begin training immediately.

Valimaki Takes Finnish Title
by Bruce McKinnon - www.aprclive.com

Jussi Valimaki's recent turn of good luck has continued, capturing the Finnish rally championship for 2007, the first time he has taken out his national title.

Going into the final round, held near the regional city of Mikkeli, south-east of Jyvaskyla, Valimaki lead the Group A category, but only by a single point from Jarmo Mikkonen. From the opening stage, Valimaki and Mikkonen tried to pressure each other by setting fast split times. But Valimaki soon ran into problems, losing 1st and 2nd gears after just six kilometers. The problem couldn't be solved during service, and Valimaki was forced to contest the rest of the event with just three gears.

That provided an opportunity for Mikkonen, but he was having problems of his own; an off on stage 1 saw him stuck in a ditch. He did manage to get back onto the road, and during the following stages took the lead in Group A, Valimaki struggling on with just three gears.

But with just the transport back to service park to complete the event, the gearbox in Mikkonen's Peugeot 206 WRC failed, leaving him stuck beside the road.

Mikkonen's bad luck allowed Valimaki to complete the series seven points clear of Kari Ali-Rantala, and take the Finnish national title for the first time.

For more information and photos, check out www.jussivalimaki.com.

Rally of Indonesia - Promo Clip

Our small tribute to a past world champion - and an APRC competitor in the 1990's.
Colin McRae at the height of his game, Rally of New Zealand in 1995 and on the right - driving for Ford in 2001.

Valimaki wins Indonesia Rally - Crocker wins the Championship

Indonesia Podium
The MRF Tyres Mitsubishi team scored a double victory on the Indonesian round of the 2007 Asia Pacific Rally Championship with a 1st and 2nd in the Rally of Indonesia. Valimaki’s win ended the run of victories by Australian Cody Crocker, but even though the Subaru driver finished only 5th it was enough to secure him and co-driver Ben Atkinson a second APRC title provided the pair cross the startline in the China Rally in November.

Finnish driver Jussi Valimaki was in dominant form from the outset handling the rough conditions and extreme heat to score his second victory of the season. The team had found a good setup in pre-rally testing and Valimaki was fastest on all stages on the first day except one. “All the rally went very very well for us, all the time under control so very happy for the team, the mechanics, Mitsubishi and MRF Tyres. We needed this victory and the setup on this rally suggests that we can continue to do this in the next event in China” said Valimaki at the final finish control.

Jussi Valimaki & Jarkko Kalliolepo
Japanese team-mate Katsu Taguchi was 2nd, shadowing Valimaki for most of the event but settling for 2nd to ensure a 1-2 finish for the team “ very good result for our team, absolutely! I pushed hard on the first day, maximum attack but today maybe I was pushing too hard, I missed a lot of corners, some over-shoots, sometimes understeer but still we are 2nd - but in China I want one more place up – win in China”.

Hiroshi Yanagisawa also from Japan was 3rd in the CUSCO Subaru and young Indian driver Gaurev Gill ensured a great weekend for MRF by finishing 4th .

Cody Crocker & Ben Atkinson
Crocker, with co-driver Ben Atkinson, had a tough weekend in the heat and rugged roads of Indonesia, but the pair battled on to grab the necessary points to win the championship with one round to go. The back-to-back title is a triumph for Crocker, and follows his domination of the Australian Championship from 2002 to 2005 when he won three straight national titles.

A puncture on day one ruined any chance of an eleventh straight outright title for the Victorian, but the fifth, combined with a second placing in heat two, added six championship points to his season’s tally. After gathering a perfect score of 64 points from the first four rounds of the 2007 season, the six points were two more than he needed to secure the overall title for Subaru and his Motor`Image team.

Motor Images' Glen Tan (R) congratulates Cody Crocker
“After the flat tyre on SS5 yesterday we were out of contention for the Indonesian title, so the focus became getting through the rally and securing the APRC title,” Crocker said. “While we could be disappointed with fifth here, the real story for us and the team is a second straight championship. We’ve had an incredible run, ten straight event wins, that run was never going to go on for ever in a sport like this.”

“But for us to add two APRCs to three ARCs across five years is just incredible. “Full credit to the team. We were in many ways a new combination this year, running for MotorImage for the first time. But everything has gelled well. Ben has done a brilliant job again and we can now go to China and really enjoy the fact that we’ve achieved our goal the year.”

Crockers' team-mate Indonesian Rifat Sungkar was expected to do well on his home event but a series of punctures put paid to any chance of a good result.

Brian Green finished 7th in APRC, but his team-mate Naren Kumar was not so lucky, a broken diff ending his event.

The next event is Rally China November 9 to 11, 2007.

Final Overall Results - Indonesia Rally
1 Jussi Valimaki & Jarkko Kalliolepo - Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX -3:06:36 **.*
2 Katsuhiko Taguchi & Mark Stacey - Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX - 3:08:17 +1:41
3 Hiroshi Yanagisawa & Yoshimasa Nakahara - Subaru Impreza - 3:09:21 +2:45
4 Gaurav Gill & Karl Francis - Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII - 3:11:00 +4:24
5 Cody Crocker & Ben Atkinson - Subaru Impreza - 3:11;15 +4:39
6 Rifat Sungkar & Mohamad Herkusuma - Subaru Impreza - 3:13:15 +6:39
7 Brian Green & Fleur Pedersen - Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX - 3:22:48 +16:12

Can Crocker take his second APRC Title?

Cody Crocker
Could this weekend's sixth round of the 2007 Asia Pacific Rally Championship be 'Deju-vu' - an exact copy of last years event where Australian Cody Crocker comes to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi only needing a a few more points to wrap up the championship. Its all remarkably similar to last season but there are a few subtle differences. One is that this year Crocker has taken every point on offer - a total of 64 points to be exact, whereas last year he only had 63!. Another difference is the state of the opposition, last year Katsu Taguchi came to the Indonesian round with a mathematical chance of taking the championship - and so he does this year, but in 2006 he at least had 39 points - 24 behind Crocker, while this year the difference is 28.

Crocker at Rally Hokkaido
The Motor Image Subaru driver should therefore deservedly take out the championship for a second season and there-after the interesting fight will be for second position . Its close with Taguchi on 36, Valimaki on 33, Kumar 28 and Sungkar 21 and sitting in 6th spot is Hiroshi Yanagisawa on 20 points. After finishing second in the '06 championship the CUSCO driver has had a lousy time this year, with 2 major crashes and a costly puncture in his home event in Hokkaido. Valimaki is another that is blindly fast when things are going well, but some bad luck, mechanical woes and bad tyre choices have usually seen the Finn finishing behind his Japanese team-mate Katsu Taguchi.

Katsu-san has again been the most consistent of the top drivers (other than Crocker of course!) and he and Valimaki must be rooing their double DNF in Malaysia as that really did finish-off their title aspirations for 2007. Hopefully now we might see some real fireworks - with nothing to lose Taguchi, Valimaki and Yanagisawa may decide "lets just go for it". And why not - even if all those three drivers fill the podium in Indonesia, Crocker could still have the last laugh, as providing the Australian driver finishes 5th or better - 4 more points will be enough to win the title.

Naran Kumar
Behind the 'fast four' is India's Naren Kumar and Rifat Sungkar from Indonesia. This pair has battled it out all season, swapping times and positions in all the events they've competed in. Kumar has a slight edge in points, but Indonesia will be his last event for the year, while Sungkar still has two more chances including his home event. Kiwi veteran driver Brian Green showed in Malaysia that consistency is king by finishing in 3rd place and the same approach will pay dividends in Indonesia. Gaurav Gill drove sensibly in Malaysia to finish 5th and the MRF youngster shouldn't find it too difficult in Indonesia, as the heat and roads are similar to his home in India.

Rally Indonesia is usually hotter than Malaysia, but with less humidity, however the roads are rougher and dustier. The organisers have moved the service park closer to the stages, resulting in one of the most compact events of the championship. The event start this Thursday(6th September) with shakedown, followed by a ceremonial start on Friday in the city of Makassar, with two days of competition over 226 kilometres of stages on Saturday and Sunday.

Malaysian Rally Promo Video

Ten straight wins for Crocker, while others faulter

Podium - (1)Cody Crocker (2)Naren Kumar (3)Brian Green
Just to make it to the finish of the Malaysian Rally is an accomplishment and Motor Image driver Cody Crocker won convincingly for the 2nd year in a row and at the same time racked up his 10th straight win in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship.

Crocker didn't have it all his way as after the first two stages the event was led by Finnish driver Jussi Valimaki in the MRF Tyres Mitsubishi, but Valimaki's challenge quickly faulted on Stage 3 when an error in reconnaissance resulted in the Finn having to drive most of the stage with no pace notes "we made a mistake during recce at the first junction and missed out over 2 kilometres of the stage. We lost over a minute to Cody..It's a pity because I was ready to fight for a win on this rally" said a dejected Valimaki afterwards.

But at least he was still in the event unlike Hiroshi Yanagisawa who crashed off 18 kilometres into stage 1. "Its quite a difficult stage and maybe I was little frustrated and going too fast, I hit a palm tree on the left rear side and although I tried to continued eventually the rear wheel came off and I had to stop and retire - we'll get the car repaired and return for Indonesia" , said Yanagisawa back at the service park.

At the lunch time service break Crocker was already leading APRC by just under a minute on Taguchi, with a gap of two seconds back to Valimaki. Sungkar and Kumar were continuing their season long battle constantly swapping times and places between 4th and 5th in APRC.

But the talk at mid-day service was all about rain. As the competitors left stage 4 it began to fall in bucket loads, but back at service 10km to the north it was more a heavy shower. The big question was: what was it doing in the area for the next stages - 5 and 6 - located very near service? In Malaysia it can rain heavily on one corner and remain bone dry at another.

Katsu Taguchi & Mark Stacey
As the cars left service there was radically different thinking on the correct type of tyre even within the teams - Taguchi went for full muds, while Valimaki went for complete dry tyres. Amazingly at the end of stage 5 and 28 kilometres the MRF pair were separated by only 1 second, but both were slower than Crocker whose team had opted for a dry cut tyre. On stage 6 Valimaki won by 1 second from Crocker and as the cars returned to service Valimaki and Taguchi were tied for 2nd, but were exactly 1 minute behind Crocker.

The open stages dry quickly but the final set stages 7 and 8, were under a canopy of Palm Oil trees and it was this area that had had the most rain at lunch-time. Stage 7 was 28 kilometer long and even in the morning run had some slippery patches. Taguchi describes the conditions "The last 2 stages were 70% in the wet .. very difficult to have complete confidence in those conditions, especially for braking.

The conditions were so slippery, treacherous and slow that Crocker even adjusted his mirror because he felt sure that team-mate Toshi Arai was going to catch him!! But he need not have worried as the rest of the competitors were having just as many problems in the conditions, Arai 7 seconds slower on SS7, while Taguchi was 37 seconds off Crocker's pace.

The Australian seems to revel in these conditions and not even Arai had an answer to Crocker's speed - in the overall positions Crocker lead Arai by 30 seconds at the end of leg1. The Japanese driver was competing in Malaysia as a guest of the Motor Image team and while not eligible for APRC points his experience in world rallying is enormous and extremely valuable for a new team such as Motor Image.

Naren Kumar & Jeff Judd
Kumar and Sungkar had continued in their feud over 4th and 5th with the Indian coming out tops for the moment, while Gaurav Gill in the third MRF car was 6th and Brian Green 8th.

The second day of an APRC event is usually uneventful, half a day of rallying and then the finish podium. At Malaysia Rally it all happened on the final morning - albeit behind Crocker. On the first stage of Leg 2 all three drivers in the Motor Image team were equal fastest - Crocker, Arai and Sungkar all on 6 minutes and 50 seconds. However 1 kilometer into the 2nd stage, Sungkar's Subaru suffered a puncture and he was forced to stop and change mid-stage - dropping over 4 minutes to leader Crocker.

Sungkar's 4 minute loss was nothing compared to the disaster that faced the MRF Tyres team - all three cars were in trouble. Taguchi and Valimaki both retired from the event after SS10 with rear diff problems - both within 10 kilometres of each other. Gill in the 3rd MRF car was struggling with a similar problem - although he did make it through the stage and onto service. Team owner Lane Heenan commented after the event, "Something we're going to have to investigate, both cars retired with a rear diff problem, both (diffs) with the same amount of life... maybe we've found the end that life. Gill's problem was slightly different it was the front diff and a broken short shaft".

With the two MRF cars dropping out of 2nd and 3rd, Kumar and Sungkar were promoted up the order, Kumar easily holding onto 2nd after Sungkar's puncture, with Brian Green in 4th and Gill now 5th.

However the Malaysian Rally still had one more sting in it's tail. A large number of supporters and spectators in the event were from Singapore and many were guests of Motor Image. At one of the biggest spectators locations hundreds watched as the cars came through - all seemed in order except that Sungkar was missing.

Rifat Sungkar & Herkusuma Mohamad
On the 2nd to last stage of the event the Indonesian went into a right hander a little too fast, slid wide hitting a palm tree and concrete drain, causing extensive damage to the left rear and breaking the left front steering arm. However the Subaru was still drivable just.... and the Indonesia pair set about getting to the end of the test, through the final 4.5 kilometer stage and back to service. By now the left front tyre was completely gone and the wheel just broken spokes, but they made it back to service with 30 seconds to go, where the team repaired the suspension and sent them onto the finish ceremony. Sungkar was obviously disappointed to have lost a podium finish for the team, but can equally be proud of not giving up and bringing the car home 4th in APRC, " I'll do what-ever it takes to get to the finish-line and we still collected 5 points' he said afterwards.

Back at the Danga Bay official finish it was a delighted Reece Jones Motorsport team that watched two of their cars cross the finish-line in podium spots. It was a near perfect finish for Naren Kumar, finishing 2nd in front of his wife and his main sponsor Sidvin's Mohan P.N. - a just reward for the consistency the Indian champ has shown throughout the year. 'We drove pretty hard right through without making any mistakes and just hanging in there. We knew that 2nd or 3rd was going to be difficult, but then suddenly the MRF teams bad luck, was our good fortune, fantastic result for us".

Brian Green felt fortunate to finish, let alone stand on the podium 'In the 2nd stage this morning we ran off the road into a drain and got stuck. Some-how we managed to get going again and at the end of the stage found ourselves in 5th with the MRF team out, then two guys in front both had problems, one with puncture and another with a crash - suddenly we're up to 3rd ".

In 5th place was the sole remaining MRF Tyres Team driver Gaurav Gill a great result for the young Indian, who started the APRC in round 1 but wrote off his car early in the event and had to wait till Malaysia to return the championship.

Cody Crocker & Ben Atkinson
Once again Crocker and co-driver Ben Atkinson survived all the drama behind them, their 10th APRC win a row!! Their form in 2007, driving for the Singapore-based Motor Image team, has been nothing short of sensational. They have collected the maximum 16 points in all four events this year - in Canberra, New Zealand, Japan and now Malaysia.

Crocker sits on top of the points table with 64 points, a perfect score, and only needs to accumulate another four points across the final two events - in Indonesia and China - to secure his second straight APRC crown. The Victorian driver is now 28 points ahead of Katsu Taguchi on 36 points and 31 clear of Jussi Valimaki, on 33 points.

"Making it ten straight wins was really important to us, so it was a relief to get to the finish line. It's been extremely difficult, right from stage 1 cars starting dropping out and we managed to stay out of trouble. The championships not about winning individual stages or even events, its all about consistency and my focus is holding that trophy again at the end of the year " Crocker said.

"We've had a great battle with Toshi and he brings a new level of competitor to the event. Usually we can beat him in Canberra or Australia and he'll always beat us in Japan, we got him here, so we're pretty happy about that."

The penultimate round of the 2007 APRC is Rally Indonesia which takes place from September 7th to 9th.

Final Results:   Ancom Malaysian Rally 2007 - APRC Round 5
1. Cody Crocker - Subaru - 02:49:46
2. Naren Kumar - Mitsubishi - 02:55:43
3. Brian Green - Mitsubishi - 03:05:56
4. Rifat Sungkar - Subaru - 03:11:48
5. Garav Gill - Mitsubishi - 03:18:56

Battle of the Champions in Ancom Malaysian Rally 2007

Round 5 of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) to be held in the palm oil plantations of Johor, Malaysia promises to be an exciting round with no less than four former APRC champions and two Production WRC champions in the event.

Taguchi & Crocker

Naren Kumar

Toshi Arai

Rifat Sungkar

Karamjit Singh

Jussi Valimaki

Hiroshi Yanagisawa


2006 APRC Champion Cody Crocker from Australia is with a new team in 2007, the Singapore based Motor Image Rally Team and it has made no difference to his winning ways - nine events in a row on top of the podium - can he make it ten?? After an impressive showing in 2006 as a privateer, Rifat Sungkar was rewarded with a place in the Motor Image team and the young Indonesia has plenty of experience in Malaysia, having competed in the local championship in 2005. Former Production World Rally Champion (P-WRC) Toshihiro Arai from Japan joins the MI team for this event, a winner here in 2005 but not an APRC registered competitor therefore he will be competing for glory, rather than points. All 3 drivers are in the latest spec Subaru Impreza WRX's and will no doubt be locked in a close fight with the ever improving MRF Tyres Rally Team driving Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9's. Japan's Katsu Taguchi has a lot of experience of Malaysia having lived and competed in the local championship for several years, while team-mate Finnish Jussi Valimaki has no experience of the plantations roads and the extreme humidity. The team's third driver young Indian, Gaurav Gill rejoins in Malaysia after his big crash in Round 1 New Caledonia, where he wrote off his Mitsubishi on Stage 3.

Three times APRC champion and the first Asian P-WRC Champion Karamjit Singh has just taken delivery of his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 rally car and it will be interesting to see how he measures up after such along layoff. Singh's vast experience of the Malaysian climatic conditions will no doubt be of huge value - and if it rains the former champ will be hard to beat. Singh is aiming for a good finish to keep his new sponsors happy and will definitely have the home fans cheering him on.

Hiroshi Yanagisawa in the CUSCO Subaru will have his second run on the Malaysian event and after a spectucular drive at last months Rally Hokkaido, the Japanese driver will be looking to consolidate his championship position. Having his first experience of the difficult Malaysian conditions is India's Naren Kumar driving a Sidvin supported Mitsubishi Lancer 9 - a six time winner of the Indian National Rally championship and currently 5th in the championship, Kumar is the first privateer. Other notable entries include the Indonesian Pertamina GG Rally Team with Subhan Aksa and Akbar Hadianto in Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8's and New Zealander Brian Green a former winner of the Malaysia Rally.

Cody Crocker currently has a dominating lead in the Championship 14 points clear of his closest rival Katsu Taguchi with 34 points in second place while team mate Jussi Valimaki is only 2 points adrift in third place.

Ancom Malaysian Rally 2007 will be held on August 10-12 in the plantations around Felda Bandar Tenggara in Johor. The start will be officiated by the Chief Minister of Johor in Danga Bay on Friday 10th August at 9pm.

FIA APRC Championship Winners
1999 Katsuhiko Taguchi - Japan Mitsubishi
2000 Possum Bourne - New Zealand Subaru
2001 Karamjit Singh - Malaysia Proton
2002 Karamjit Singh - Malaysia Proton
2003 Armin Kremer - Germany Mitsubishi
2004 Karamjit Singh - Malaysia Proton
2005 Jussi Valimaki - Finland Mitsubishi
2006 Cody Crocker - Australia Subaru

Crocker wins in Japan

Cody Crocker & Ben Atkinson
Australian rally driver Cody Crocker appears unstoppable in his quest to win the Asia Pacific Rally Championship for the second year in succession. In the fourth round of the 2007 APRC at Rally Hokkaido (7-8 July), Crocker beat Japan's best rally drivers to win the event outright and extend his lead in the Asia-Pacific championship. The event was held on Japan's beautiful northern most island, in fine warm weather, with dry and dusty road conditions. As always, the event was supported by a large number of local fans waiting by the road, waving flags and taking photos.

It was a dominating drive by Crocker the reigning APRC champion, taking ten points for the win and an additional six bonus points for finishing each day as the fastest car as well. Driving the Motor Image Subaru Impreza WRX STI, the multiple Australian champ now sits on top of the series table with the maximum 48 points, 14 clear of Taguchi on 34 points with Valimaki a further two points back on 32.

"This is a really tough event. Long, fast and very technical. Someone said always winning is boring, but not for us. Each rally is an enormous challenge, a great test, and at the moment we've got the winning formula, and long may that last.We're developing a healthy buffer in the championship, but each round we have to produce a good result as that can all disappear in one round with a DNF. We've still got three events left, so our goal is to win each of those as well." Crocker said at the final service.

Katsu Taguchi
Behind Crocker were Mitsubishi drivers Katsu Taguchi (Japan) and Jussi Valimaki driving for 'Team MRF Tyres Mitsubishi'. Mitsubishi went into the event full of confidence after a successful pre-rally test and initially Taguchi led the APRC competitors after the first stage. However that advantage was lost on the 2nd stage, when Crocker went 7 seconds quicker than Taguchi, moving into the overall lead. At the first service break the gap was only 11.7 seconds and Taguchi was confident he could reverse the order and take back first spot, "The car was lacking power and we found the problem at service and the roads will be much different this afternoon. I think we can get the lead back". As it turned out Taguchi actually lost more time to Crocker and even through he pushed hard for most of the event he couldn't catch the flying Auzzie.

Finnish driver Valimaki was not happy with his 3rd position, but considering his physical condition on Saturday he was lucky to finish. " I think I ate something that didn't agree with me .I have felt much better today and we pushed hard to at least get some bonus points" said Valimaki at the finish.

Fourth overall was Japan's Yoshi Yanagisawa in the Cusco Subaru. While the Japanese driver regularly won stages outright, over 4 minutes was lost on Stage 2 with a puncture and even though he drove hard for the rest of the event to make up the time, Yanagisawa could only recover to fourth position.

Naren Kumar from India bought his Sidvin Mitsubishi home in 5th. With a change in co-driver for this event Kumar upped his pace, regularly finishing in the top 4 times. A satisfied Kumar commented "Jeff Judd from New Zealand has been my co-driver for this event and it makes a big difference on these roads to have some-one with his experience. I am sure in future we can up the pace".

Rifat Sungkar
Also with a new co-driver for Hokkaido was Indonesian Rifat Sungkar, taking advice from Bill Hayes who normally partners Australian Dean Herridge and lately New Caledonian Jean Leyraud. Sungkar found the experience extremely valuable particularly writing notes and he's looking forward to the next event in Malaysia. Seventh in APRC was Japanese driver Yoshio Ikemachi followed by New Zealander Brian Green in 8th.

The next event in the APRC is the Malaysia Rally, 10-12th August and held on the Palm Oil Plantation roads in Johor Baru, very near to Singapore

Final Results - Rally Hokkaido
1, (AP), C.CROCKER, SUBARU, 2:32:13.0,
2, (AP) K.TAGUCHI, MITSUBISHI, 2:33:36.6, +1:23.6
3, (AP) J.VALIMAKI, MITSUBISHI, 2:34:12.6, +1:59.6
4, (AP) YANAGISAWA, SUBARU, 2:37:07.1, +4:54.1
5, (AP) V-R N.KUMAR, MITSUBISHI, 2:38:51.2, +6:38.2
6, (AP), R.SUNGKAR, SUBARU, 2:41:39.6, +9:26.6
7, T.KAMADA, SUBARU, 2:42:52.6, +10:39.6
8, S.TAGUCHI, MITSUBISHI, 2:44:30.2, +12:17.2
9, (AP), Y.IKEMACHI, SUBARU, 2:46:21.6, +14:08.6
10, (AP), B.GREEN, MITSUBISHI, 2:48:17.7, +16:04.7

Round 4 - Preview, Rally of Hokkaido, Japan

After three rounds in the southern hemisphere the 2007 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship now heads north to four Asian events starting with Japan's round on the island on Hokkaido. The series is currently led by last years champion, Cody Crocker driving a Motor Image Singapore prepared Subaru Impreza - the Australian driver now has an unbeaten record of 8 starts and 8 wins - and with 32 points - an 8 point lead.

Jussi Valimaki
Behind the Subaru driver is the MRF Mitsubishi pair of Japan's Katsu Taguchi and Jussi Valimaki from Finland - both drivers equal 2nd on 24 points. Crocker is well aware that in Japan he will have a challenge to keep Taguchi and the Mitsubishi team at bay. "Its Katsu's home territory, he got a quick car now we've got be to right on top of things. We had a great run last year, but the MRF team have upped the pace a bit this year, we need to work out a few things, we've got a few more things we can develop with this car, hopefully it will be even quicker for us" said Crocker.

With a good finish in Canberra and getting to 1.4 seconds of Crocker, Taguchi is feeling very confident about his home event - after finishing second in Canberra he said. "This is his home town rally, next one is my hometown. Here we ran some new MRF tyres and they were really good, but we only had a limited number - next events in Hokkaido and Malaysia we will have more, so should be good fight".

Jussi Valimaki the 2005 APRC champ is equally confident that future events the MRF Mitsubishi team will be able to challenge Crocker's dominance "Japan has nice roads and some stages like in Finland, so looking forward but we have to remember that Katsu-san is very very fast in Japan".

Rifat Sungkar
Behind the leading three competitors there is big battle for 4th spot with Team India's Naren Kumar holding the position at the moment on 14 points - 18 points behind leader Crocker.

Only 1 point behind Kumar is Crocker's Motor Image team-mate Rifat Sungkar from Indonesia and Japans Hiroshi Yanagisawa in the Cusco Subaru. Yanagisawa finished 2nd in last years championship but with a DNF in New Caledonia will be hoping for a top result on his event in Hokkaido.

The Rally of Hokkaido is based in the city of Obihiro and runs 6 - 8 July.

Crocker takes fourth Canberra win

Cody Crocker & Ben Atkinson
Cody Crocker has won his fourth Rally of Canberra, and his third in a row, with an emphatic victory in round three of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship today.

Crocker and co-driver Ben Atkinson won 10 of the event's 16 stages in their Motor Image Rally Team Subaru Impreza WRX, eventually winning by over a minute from Japan's Katsu Taguchi. Crocker, who won the APRC last year, has now driven in two rallies in his Motor Image Rally Team Impreza, and has won both of them, strengthening his standing as the best driver in the Asia Pacific region. Aside from a steering problem on the final stage of Leg 1, he emerged unscathed from the tough and demanding Rally of Canberra course.

Katsu Taguchi & Mark Stacey
Taguchi, with co-driver Mark Stacey, had been just 12 seconds behind Crocker at the end of the first day, but a turbo boost problem early on Day 2 saw his chances of victory slip away. However his second place puts the MRF Tyres driver into second place in the APRC, moving him ahead of team-mate Jussi Valimaki, who was fourth.

In third place were Australians Dean Herridge and Bill Hayes in a Subaru Impreza WRX. Herridge, who soon heads to Beijing to drive for the Subaru Rally Team China, had a trouble-free run into third place.

Finnish star Jussi Valimaki, won three stages, including two on the final day, in his MRF Tyres Lancer Evo 9, but came away disappointed with his performance. Despite a confidence-building two-day tyre and suspension test before the event, Valimaki could not match the speed and domination of Crocker, and now slips to third in the championship standings. It was a good event for Motor Image team as Crocker's team-mate, Rifat Sungkar, took fifth place, ahead of Indian Naren Kumar, Kiwi Brian Green, Australian Denis Stephens and Japan's Jun Mikami.

The next round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship is the Hokkaido Rally in Japan, from July 6-8.

Final Results, Rally of Canberra:
1. Cody Crocker / Ben Atkinson Subaru Impreza WRX 2h30m51.6s
2. Katsu Taguchi / Mark Stacey Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +1m03.6s
3. Dean Herridge / Bill Hayes Subaru Impreza WRX +1m51.8s
4. Jussi Valimaki / Jarkko Kalliolepo Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +2m16.7s
5. Rifat Sungkar / Herkusuma Mohamad Subaru Impreza WRX +7m36.1s
6. Naren Kumar / D. Ramkumar Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +10m17.6s
7. Brian Green / Fleur Pedersen Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +15m54.8s
8. Denis Stephens / Frank Brookehouse Subaru Impreza WRX +30m18.1s
9. Jun Mikami / Toshiyuki Kayahara Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +32m26.2s

Courtesy of www.roc.com.au

Crocker starts first, finishes first in Canberra Day 1

Cody Crocker & Ben Atkinson
Asia Pacific Rally Champion, Cody Crocker, has made the perfect start to the third round of this year's championship by finishing the first Leg of the Rally of Canberra with a commanding lead.

The Motor Image Rally Team driver steered his Impreza WRX over today's seven stages to finish the day 12.5 seconds in front of Katsu Taguchi. Despite dropping over 16 seconds on the final stage of the day, held in darkness, Crocker and co-driver Ben Atkinson shrugged off the early challenge from Taguchi to retain control of the rally in the afternoon stages.

But with a day still to go, the MRF Tyres Mitsubishi driver is still within striking distance, and is sure to push hard for victory over tomorrow's seven stages.

Katsu Taguchi & Mark Stacey
Taguchi favours Leg Two's faster stages more than the slower stages of Leg 1, and with such a small gap between he and Crocker, the pressure will be right on.

In third place is another Australian, Dean Herridge. The winner of the Rally of Canberra in 2004, Herridge had a consistent day and lies 36 seconds from the lead, although he admitted that his tyres were too hard and too narrow for the dry conditions today.

The second MRF Tyres Lancer Evo 9, driven by Finland's Jussi Valimaki, had a disappointing day and lies in fourth place, more than a minute and a half from the lead. Valimaki took one stage win, but he could not match the pace of Crocker or Taguchi and will be hoping for better fortune during Leg 2.

Rifat Sungkar & H. Mohamad
Crocker's Indonesian team-mate, Rifat Sungkar, is in fifth place, four minutes and 21 seconds from the lead, while Indian Naren Kumar is sixth, despite an exciting moment on Stage five when he nearly rolled his Lancer out of the rally.

This year's Rally of Canberra has witnessed bigger spectator numbers than it has for many years as fans flock to the forests to see the best drivers in the Asia Pacific region go head-to-head in one of the most popular rounds of the championship.

Tomorrow the APRC crews face another seven stages, with a total competitive distance of 106km. Cody Crocker looks set to increase his championship lead, but with Katsu Taguchi less than 13 seconds behind, there's all to play for.

Results at the end of Leg 1:
1. Cody Crocker / Ben Atkinson - Subaru Impreza WRX 1h19m27.7s
2. Katsu Taguchi / Mark Stacey - Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +12.5s
3. Dean Herridge / Bill Hayes - Subaru Impreza WRX +36.4s
4. Jussi Valimaki / Jarkko Kalliolepo - Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +1m38.1s
5. Rifat Sungkar / H. Mohamad - Subaru Impreza WRX +4m21.4s
6. Naren Kumar / D. Ramkumar - Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +5m36.9s

Latest Hi-Res photos are online Here

Crocker takes early lead in Rally of Canberra

Cody Crocker - Shakedown
Asia Pacific Rally Champion, Cody Crocker, has taken the lead after the first stage of the Rally of Canberra tonight.

Driving his Motor Image Subaru Impreza WRX, Crocker and co-driver Ben Atkinson were an impressive 3.8 seconds faster than Japan's Katsu Taguchi over the 10.33km night stage. Australian Dean Herridge equalled Taguchi's time over the stage, while Taguchi's team-mate, Finland's Jussi Valimaki, was fourth in his MRF Tyres Lancer Evo 9, 12 seconds off the pace. A cold night in Canberra didn't deter hundreds of spectators who braved the conditions to watch the rally cars in action. A gentle breeze meant that hanging dust wasn't a problem, something that many of the competitors had been concerned about before the start of the event.

The 10 competitors in the third round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship return to the forests tomorrow morning and face seven stages and a further 106km of competitive driving. The first stage of the day, Oakey Creek, is the day's longest at 20.71km.

Leading positions after stage 1:
1. Cody Crocker / Ben Atkinson - Subaru Impreza WRX 6m 56s
=2. Katsu Taguchi / Mark Stacey - Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +3.8s
=2. Dean Herridge / Bill Hayes - Subaru Impreza WRX +3.8s
4. Jussi Valimaki / Jarkko Kalliolepo - Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +12.0s
5. Rifat Sungkar / Herkusuma Mohamad - Subaru Impreza WRX +22.8s
6. V.R. Naren Kumar / D. Ramkumar - Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +30.9s

MRF drivers to take challenge to APRC leader

MRF Tyres Rally Team drivers, Jussi Valimaki and Katsu Taguchi, hope that an extensive two-day test session will give them the edge over reigning Asia Pacific Rally Champion, Cody Crocker, in this weekend's Rally of Canberra.

Jussi Valimaki
Valimaki, from Finland, has completed over 250km of testing in the lead up to the third round of this year's championship, while his Japanese team-mate, Taguchi, has completed a similar amount. "I wasn't happy with the set-up of the car at the first round in New Caledonia," Valimaki said at the pre-event press conference. "We tried some new construction tyres and some new compound tyres from MRF, and they are a big improvement. I am very confident heading into this event." The MRF team also fine tuned their suspension with the help of UK suspension specialist David Potter. Katsu Taguchi says that the car will be a lot faster in Canberra. "We have made big improvements to the car," he said.

Reigning title holder and championship leader, Australian Cody Crocker, won the previous round in New Zealand, and says that his slender title lead counts for nothing once the Rally of Canberra gets under way.

Rifat Sungkar - Shakedown
"Our Motor Image Rally Team and the MRF team have now missed one round each, so from here on in it's a race to the championship title," Crocker said. "Our new Subaru performed brilliantly when we debuted it in New Zealand, and I'm aiming to continue that good form here on my home event." The regular APRC drivers, which also include Crocker's team-mate Rifat Sungkar from Indonesia (Subaru) and India's Naren Kumar (Mitsubishi), will be joined this weekend by Crocker's former Subaru Australia team-mate, Dean Herridge.

The winner of the Rally of Canberra in 2004, Herridge has recently signed a deal to drive for Subaru Rally Team China in China's national championship, and is looking forward to matching himself against the APRC regulars.

"Although we're also contesting the Australian Rally Championship component of the event, I'm determined to push for victory in the APRC rally," Herridge said. "A good result here will help with our promotion internationally, and could lead to further drives in the future, so I'll be pushing hard from the outset," he added. After a ceremonial start in the centre of Australia's capital city, the Rally of Canberra will begin with a 10.33km night stage on Friday night (June 1). After an overnight halt, crews will then contest a further 15 special stages, covering a total competitive distance of 231km. The Rally of Canberra is the third round of the 2007 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.

For further details contact:
Peter Whitten, Media Centre Manager,2007 Rally of Canberra Email: peter@rallysportmag.com.au

Champs race each other for the first time in Australia

After two rounds its "One-All" in the fight for the 2007 Asia Pacific Rally Championship title.

Jarko Kalliolepo & Jussi Valimaki
Round one was on the tropical island of New Caledonia and was won by 2005 Asia Pacific champion Jussi Valimaki, who returned to the series after a year in the WRC. Valimaki took the lead on the 2nd day from his team-mate Katsu Taguchi. Both MRF Mitsubishi drivers were in a class of their own, finishing over 4 minutes ahead of their nearest rival New Caledinian Patrick Yania, also in a Mitsubishi.

If round 1 was an all Mitsubishi podium, round 2 was the complete opposite with Subaru securing the top four spots in APRC.

Rally of Whangarei was the NZ leg and marked the return of last years champion Cody Crocker with a new sponsor and new team. "We've signed a 2-year deal with Motor Image (Singapore) and this gives us some long-term commitment to build on" said Crocker prior to the start. The Australian champion is joined in 2007 by Rifat Sungkar, the young Indonesian earning his drive with several podiums and a strong finish in last years APRC.

Cody Crocker & Ben Atkinson
As MRF Mitsubishi opted to drop the New Zealand round (teams register for six of the seven rounds) it became a Subaru benefit with Crocker taking the top spot, Japan's Hiroshi Yanagisawa in the Cusco Subaru 2nd and Sungkar bringing it home third for the Motor Image team. Adding weight to Subaru's dominance was New Caledonia Jean-Louis Leyraud.

The next round in Canberra Australia (1-3 June) is the first event of the year where the main contenders will all meet, excepting Yanagisawa who has dropped this round.

Crocker is on his home event and understandably confident ' Bring it on - yea there's a bit of competition this year with Valimaki, Taguchi and Yanagisawa all driving well - we gotta keep ourselves focused and on the task.

Valimaki is not fazed by taking on Crocker on home territory "Of course its always easier for a driver on his home roads, but still I've quite positive feelings now, it will be a big battle, big fight. I think in Canberra we will have good pace - we need to have of course.' said Valimaki after winning in New Caledonia.

Katsu Taguchi
Team-mate Katsu Taguchi is equally confident he can win. The Japanese driver led for most of the New Caledonian event, but lost out to Valimaki through tyre choice. Looking ahead to Canberra Taguchi said "Jussi chose the mud tyre that was the correct choice for him - but this tyre doesn't suit my sideways style and it is better to finish 2nd than loose time and points with a puncture. Overall I'm very happy with my driving and I think I can win in Canberra".

A battle to watch in Canberra will be between Indonesian Rifat Sungkar and India's Naren Kumar. The Team India driver had a dismal time in New Zealand with gearbox problems and punctures, but has so far this year set quick times when things have gone well. Sungkar has the benefit of Crocker's knowledge and quickly got to grips with his new Subaru New Zealand. Both drivers have competed in Canberra before, Kumar in 2002 with the MRF team and Sungkar last year with the Indonesian Rally Team.

With its base in the Australian capital Canberra - and stages in the nearby forests, the Rally of Canberra begins in Friday 1st June and finishes 3rd June.

For more information visit www.roc.com.au and www.rally.com.au/events/canberra07/results/

Crocker takes top points in New Zealand
Sunday May 13, 2007

Cody Crocker & Ben Atkinson
Subaru rally driver, Cody Crocker, has got his Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) defence off to a perfect start, collecting the maximum points on offer at Rally Whangarei in New Zealand.

Crocker, who dominated the 2006 series to add the international title to his three domestic rally crowns, lead the competition from start to finish this weekend, taking three bonus points for each heat win plus ten for the overall victory.

While he did not contest the opening event in New Caledonia, Crocker and co-driver Ben Atkinson now sit on top of the championship points table with 16, one clear of Finland's Jussi Valimaki on 15 points, with Japan's Katsu Taguchi in third place on 13 .

Hiroshi Yanagisawa
Crocker won the APRC round by two minutes 43 seconds from Hiroshi Yanagisawa with Malaysia's Rifat Sungkar third, nine minutes 25.5 seconds back, making it a clean sweep for the Subaru Impreza WRX STIs.
Crocker held the overnight lead in the outright battle as well, but in the end that honour went to young Kiwi Hayden Padden who finished 24.4 seconds clear of the Australian. The Subaru driver was content to settle for second in that contest, having been dealt the role of having to sweep the heavily gravelled roads while Padden was well back in the field after all the APRC competitors.

"It was a good result for us," Crocker said. "It was very difficult being first on the road as there was a lot of loose coarse gravel first time over them this morning. But the car has real speed. We held the Group N record for that last stage, Waipu Caves, from when it was a WRC stage in 2005, and we beat our own mark by 12.4 seconds to win the stage today. So that is really promising for the rest of the year."

Results - Asia Pacific Rally Championship - Round 2 - Rally Whangarei
1, Cody CROCKER, Ben ATKINSON, Subaru, Impreza WRX, N4, ****
2, Hiroshi YANAGISAWA, Tadashi MISAIZU, Subaru, Impreza WRX, N4, +2:43.0
3, Rifat SUNGKAR, Herkusuma MOHAMAD, Subaru, Impreza WRX, N4, +9:35.6
4, Jean-Louis LEYRAUD, Bill HAYES, Subaru, Impreza WRX, N4, +9:52.2
5, Brian GREEN, Fleur PEDERSEN, Mitsubishi, Lancer EVO 9, N4, +11:58.7
6, Yoshio IKEMACHI, Vivek SAMY, Subaru, Impreza WRX, N4, +12:59.7
7, Patrick YANAI, Dominique YANAI, Mitsubishi, Lancer EVO 8, N4, +14:06.0
8, Naren KUMAR, Dorairaj RAMKUMAR, Mitsubishi, Lancer EVO 9, N4, +23:41.1

Cody Crocker

Motor Image Team Podium Celebration

Hella International Rally of Whangarei 11 - 13 May 2007

Cody Crocker & Ben Atkinson
Defending Asia Pacific Rally Champion Cody Crocker headlines the international field for the 2007 Hella International Rally of Whangarei next month.

The Australian is one of 33 drivers from seven countries to line up in the 11-13 May event that is the second round of both the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship and Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship. Eleven drivers will battle for points in the Asia Pacific Championship, and 18 in the Vantage Aluminium Joinery New Zealand Rally Championship. There are six competitors in the Kiwi 2 field and 42 in the Clubmans event.

The season debut for Crocker means he will renew his rivalry with reigning New Zealand champion Richard Mason. The pair locked horns in a superb duel in last year's Asia Pacific Championship event in Rotorua, with just nine seconds separating the two drivers after Mason overcame a 13 second deficit on the final day.

Crocker and co-driver Ben Atkinson, brother of World Rally championship driver Chris Atkinson, will head the Subaru Motor Image Rally Team in a two-car campaign with Indonesia's Rifat Sungkar and Herkusuma Mohamad. Crocker bypassed the opening round in New Caledonia as he lined up with Chris Atkinson and fellow Australian Dean Herridge to finish outright second in the 12-hour production race at Bathurst.

Hiroshi Yanagisawa
Japan's Hiroshi Yanagisawa, last year's runner-up in the Asia Pacific Championship, will be a desperate starter in New Zealand, after he failed to finish at New Caledonia in his Subaru. here will be interest in the performance of India's Naren Kumar with co-driver Dorairaj Ramkumar who guided their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 to fourth placing on debut in New Caledonia.

Naren Kumar
There are five French drivers in the field, led by third seed Patrick Yanai (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8), Patrick Christian (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8), Jean-Louis Leyraud (Subaru Impreza WRX), Alexis Barbou and Robert Christian (both Mitsubishi Lancer).

There's only one New Zealander in the Asia Pacific championship field for Whangarei in the form of Manawatu's Brian Green, who is again joined by Fleur Pedersen as co-driver in their Evo 9.

Patrick Yanai
The New Zealand Rally Championship field is headed by defending champion Mason and co-driver Sara Randall in the new Richard Mason Motorsport Subaru Impreza WRX, who opened the 2007 season where he left off last year with victory in the opening round in Otago.

Taihape's Bret Martin and Grant Marra are the second seeded combination in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 ahead of Dunedin's Emma Gilmour and Australian Glenn MacNeall (Subaru WRX). MacNeall has been co-driver for fellow Australian Chris Atkinson in the Subaru team in the World Rally Championship for the past few years.

There is also an interesting entry from Chris West and Garry Cowan, the 2004 national champions, in a Mitsubishi Evo 6.5 after their Subaru team did not re-enter this year.

For further information on the Hella International Rally of Whangarei checkout the website www.rallywhangarei.co.nz

Mitsubishi clean sweep in New Caledonia

New Caledonia Podium
Finland's Jussi Valimaki won the opening round of the 2007 Asia Pacific Rally Championship, held on the beautiful tropical island paradise of New Caledonia. Close behind came his MRF team-mate Katsu Taguchi from Japan and third was local driver Patrick Yanai - all driving Mitsubishi Lancers.

The event started on Friday (13th) in brilliant sunshine, with a ceremonial start in downtown Noumea followed by a super-special that made up the first two stages, The MRF Mitsubishi team immediately set the pace with Taguchi and Valimaki finishing on identical times for the first stage., The second night-time run through the super-special, Indian driver Naren Kumar in the Team India Mitsubishi was quickest, going one second faster than his countryman Garev Gill driving for the MRF Mitsubishi team. Equal second was Valimaki.

Katsu Taguchi
The next morning the event moved to Poya, 200 kilometres north of Noumea to run over 3 stages, 3 times and a total for the leg of 156 kilometres of competition. With the roads fast and dry Valimaki was fastest on Stage 3, but not far behind was team-mate Taguchi. The Japanese driver had won here in 2006 and on the longer and trickier Stage 4, Taguchi made his charge easily winning the stage, then going quickest on all remaining stages of the day to lead the event by 24 seconds at the end of leg 1. At the final service a satisfied Taguchi said "We're very happy to be leading, everything went well today, the car is good and the roads very nice - just sometimes the grip can be difficult to predict'. Valimaki was second and happy to back in the APRC, "Today was OK for me, just getting used to driving the Group N Mitsubishi again and MRF tyres. Tomorrow is big day so we will wait and see".

Patrick Yanai
Third behind the two MRF cars was yet another Mitsubishi Lancer driven by New Caledonian driver Patrick Yanai. "We are happy to have a good start to our Asia-Pacific campaign, but tomorrow is difficult".

Fourth spot was held by New Caledonian Jean-Louis Leyraud in a Subaru, 3 minutes off the leaders and slightly off the pace after running for most of the day with no 4th gear. The gearbox was changed by the Cusco Subaru team during the final service break, while their own driver Hiroshi Yanigisawa had made a rare mistake on Stage 9, bending the rear suspension link. Yanagisawa made repairs at the end of the stage, but the Japanese pair were 7 minutes late checking into the next control. In the following stage they were forced to stop for another minute and tighten a loose bolt - car number one finished the day in 5th.

Following the two Subarus was Naren Kumar in 6th taking his time to get used to the car, the roads and the very different conditions Kumar's team-mate Brian Green was holding 7th and New Caledonian Robert Christian in his first ever international rally in 8th spot.

A major retirement was MRF's Garev Gill, the young Indian going way too quick for his relative in experience and having a huge crash near the end of stage 3. Luckily no-one was hurt, but the car was a total right-off. Other APRC retirements included Patrick Christian and Daniel Palau, both retiring with damaged cars.

Jussi Valimaki SS3
The second leg although shorter, featured the treacherous Katrikoin stage - 28 kilometres of twisty mountain road and recent rain had made parts of the road muddy and slippery. Although the day was fine and hot, Valimaki opted for mud tyres on the first loop and it proved to be the best choice as he took the lead , leading Taguchi by 6 seconds. For the second run the two drivers again decided on a different tyre choice - Valimaki staying with muds and Taguchi a cut dry tyre. Although the weather hot and sunny, the roads under the canopy favoured Valimaki's choice and he extended his lead to win by 19 seconds. Prior to the finish podium the 2005 APRC champion said " I think we did an excellent tyre choice today, especially for the long stage the mud tyres worked perfectly. Also the car and the suspension works well with these tyres - I was very confident about what we are doing. For the next event we need to do some more testing and I think there is some time we can gain yet."

Taguchi was a little disappointed to have lost his lead after driving so well, "Jussi and me chose two totally different tyres, but for me it is the correct one - we drive quite differently and I am alot more sideways and it doesn't suit the mud tyre. Next time it could be different. I am pleased that we have 13 points for the championship and we still have five more events to go yet - lots can happen. I believe my driving has improved so I'm looking forward to the next rally for our team, Rally of Canberra in Australia.

Naren Kumar SS10
New Caledonian Patrick Yania kept his third place, although he briefly lost it after a bad tyre choice on the first run through Katrikoin. Fouth in APRC was Naren Kumar in the Team India Mitsubishi picking up an extra bonus point for 3rd fastest on Leg 2. Robert Christian was the only other APRC finisher after several retirements on the final stages.

Subaru was the major loser with both Leyraud and Yanagisawa retiring. Leyraud was first to go, a moments loss of concentration on a slippery concrete ford saw the local veteran slide off. Although there was no major damage, the car was stuck between the concrete bridge and a small tree. Yanagisawa passed the stricken Subaru and was possibly on his way to going into 3rd overall, when suddenly the engine expired. The team had been concerned at the amount of oil they were pouring into the engine and couldn't believe there luck, their first engine problem in 3 years. Kiwi Brian Green also retired with differential problems in his Mitsubishi after on trck for a good finish.

Although not classified in the APRC runners New Zealander Marty Rosternburg finished 5th overall, after winning stage 3 outright and then rolling on stage 4.

The next event is Rally of Whangarei New Zealand on 11-13 May (NB: MRF Mitsubishi will skip this event).































YANAI Patrick
YANAI Dominique



























TOJIB Jean-Luc
















Good entry for APRC's Pacific Paradise - Rallye de Nouvelle-Calédonie

The 2007 Asia Pacific Rally Championship begins next weekend (13-15 April) with Round 1 on the Pacific Island of New Caledonia.

Entries for this year's championship are some of the best for many years and making a welcome return to the championship is the 2005 APRC champion Jussi Valimaki(FIN) again driving for Team MRF Mitsubishi. The Finn's team-mate will be Japanese driver Katsuhiko Taguchi, also a former APRC champion and these two will make a formidable team with a huge amount of experience and speed between them. Their main challenge in New Caledonia will come from another Japanese driver Hiroshi Yanagisawa, who on his first attempt at the championship in 2006 finished 2nd overall - and is looking to go one step better in 2007. Hiroshi Yanagisawa is new to this event, but he proved last year that he learns quickly and finished on the podium four times in 2006 even though it was his first time in APRC.

While these international drivers may start as favourites do not discount the local APRC entrants of Team New Caledonia ,a total of six cars driven by Patrick Yanai, Patrick Christian, Jean Louis Leyraud, Daniel Palau, Alexis Barbou and Robert Christian. The Team New Caledonia drivers will have the benefit of local knowledge, in particular on Sunday when there are two new stages that will be unfamiliar to the international crews. Patrick Yanai and Patrick Christian finished first and second respectively in the national championship in 2006, and Jean Louis Leyraud has many years of experience in APRC and other international events.

Naren Kumar
Two drivers from India will create massive publicity for the APRC in that country, with Naren Kumar the more internationally experienced and teamed with Reece Jones Motorsport. Kumar is a former Asia Zone Rally champion, a six-time winner of Indian National Rally championship and competed on APRC events in 2002 and 2004. Gaurav Gill is younger with little experience outside India, but will drive the third MRF Mitsubishi and therefore has the backing of a very strong team to guide him on his first international championship.

Brian Green
The ever present veteran driver Brian Green is again entered in the APRC, this year with RJM and will no doubt make his presence known, especially if the conditions get rough. Other international entries, although not entered in the APRC are kiwi's Marty Rosternburg and Nick Marshall. An interesting entry comes from French driver Gael Lecerf who will drive a S2000 Fiat Punto.

Service park at Poya (2006)
New Caledonia is a unique event, the island being 500km long and a mere 50 km wide and part of the third largest archipelago in the Pacific Ocean after New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. The New Caledonia lagoon (24,000 sq kms) is the largest in the world, with 1,600 kms of coral barrier reef being home to literally thousands of different types of marine life. Weather at this time of the year can be gloriously fine or miserably wet and temperatures moderate to cool - around 20-24 degrees C.

Rallye de Nouvelle-Calédonie begins on Friday 13th with a ceremonial start in down-town Noumea, followed by a super special at the Hippodrome. Next day the event moves 200 kilometres North for two days of fast flowing mountain roads, a total of 15 stages on 6 different locations and a total of 238 kilometres of competition. The event finish podium will have tropical island background being held on the Promenade Pierre VERNIER near the seaside at 4.30pm Sunday 15th.

CUSCO Rally Team are ready to win in 2007

After clinching 2nd spot in the final round of last years Asia Pacific Rally Championship, CUSCO driver Hiroshi Yanigisawa will return in 2007 determined to win events and win the championship " Last year, I got second in the championship, but for 2007 I want a better result and win the Championship and I want to win rallies. Last year was good experience especially Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia where it was first time for me and the team. This year the CUSCO team is much better prepared and ready for the challenge". The Cusco team will run the same Subaru Impreza used in China Rally last year with an uprated STI-VO- brake system and Yokohama tyres. Yanagisawa's co-driver in 2007 will be the very experienced Yoshimasa Nakahara who competed with the team at Rally of Indonesia in 2006.

CUSCO Racing Team
CUSCO RACING Team director Mr.Tsutomu Nagase reiterated his drivers comments, "2006 was our first year to enter the APRC championship, but our team parent company 'CARROSSER Co.,Ltd.' has been competing in rallies for thirty years. In 1977 we started the company for competing the rally and in that time we keep trying to get the more higher place. For our business Asia and Oceania is the one of the biggest markets and we would like to promote 'CUSCO' in this region. The APRC is a very good championship to improve and develop our technology.

The Cusco team's championship will start in Round 1 New Caledonia, competing in all events except Rally of Canberra, Australia.

MRF Mitsubishi enters three-car team in APRC

Jussi Valimaki and co-driver Jarkko Kalliolepo of Finland along with Katsuhiko Taguchi (Japan) and his co-driver Mark Stacey(Australia) will spearhead the MRF challenge for the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship title in 2007. Valimaki and Kalliolepo won the APRC champions titles in 2005 for MRF Mitsubishi and make a welcome return after a year in the World Rally Championship. Japan's Katsu Taguchi has the most experience of any driver in the APRC - a drivers champion in 1999 and a regular competitor since 2003.

Mr K. M. Mammen, Chairman and Managing Director of MRF Limited welcoming Gaurav Gill to Team MRF. Gaurav Gill will be competing in the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship for Team MRF, along with team-mates Jussi Valimaki(Finland) and Katsuhiko Taguchi(Japan).

In a surprise move, MRF Tyres has entered a third car in the championship to be driven by Gaurav Gill a promising driver from New Delhi, India. MRF expects Gill to spend 2007 learning and gaining experience of the diverse conditions in the Asia Pacific region and hope this opportunity will lead to a more competitive international drive in 2008. Gil is to have some training and testing sessions in the UK or Finland before the first APRC event in April on the Pacific island of New Caledonia. An enthusiastic Gill who will be making his debut in the international arena, said, "We are going to try to finish each and every rally and collect the maximum points for the driver's championship for Team MRF," he said. A co-driver for Gill is yet to be finalised.

The MRF team will use the latest spec Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9 cars prepared by Race Torque Engineering, Australia and are co-sponsored by Mitsubishi Ralliart of Japan . The MRF Mitsubishi team has won the championship twice before - with German driver Armin Kremer in 2003 and Jussi Valimaki in 2005.

Team MRF will participate in six of the seven rounds:
(1)New Caledonia-April 13/15,2007
(2)Rally of Canberra, Australia - June 1/3,2007
(3)Rally of Hokkaido, Japan - July 6/8,2007
(4)Malaysian Rally, August 10/12,2007
(5)Rally of Indonesia, Makassar, September 7/9,2007
(6)China Rally, November 12/13 November, 2007

Article from the Jakarta Post
February 14th 2007

Driver Rifat closer to join Subaru Motor Image team-Singapore
Rifat Sungkar

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesian driver Rifat Sungkar had reached verbal agreement with Subaru Motor Image team-Singapore to join the team along with the 2006 Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) champion Cody Croker.
"We need one more step to seal the deal with Subaru. We have to sign the written contract, which hopefully could be done this month," Rifat said Tuesday in a press statement.
Subaru Motor Image would provide Rifat a car in the 2007 APRC rally, where drivers registration will be closed on Feb. 28.

EXCITING ENTRIES FOR 2007 APRC - Crocker versus Valimaki??

While there is no official news as yet, rumours continue to suggest a big entry of teams and drivers for the 2007 Asia Pacific Rally Championship.

The big news is that the championship should see the return of last years champion Cody Crocker driving the latest Subaru Impreza - but he will have some competition from the 2005 APRC champion Jussi Valimaki who returns to the series after several drives in WRC during 2006.

Jussi Valimaki
From Valimaki's website (www.jussivalimaki.com): "I have made a contract with Australian Race Torque LTD for FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship series in season 2007. For whole autumn and first half of winter I've made plans for returning into Asia for the reason that in WRC podium finishes does not seem to matter anyone as drivers keeps fighting their places in teams with large amounts of cash they need to bring for the teams, I think my career in WRC has now been seen as I'll return to Asia with more than confident mind. In Asia I have equal chances for rallying with best possible rally cars in best possible team in series".

Cody Crocker
Crockers drive in APRC is still to be decided but an announcement is expected early next month. CUSCO Subaru have confirmed an entry for Hiroshi Yanagisawa and rumour suggests that Indonesian driver Rifat Sungkar is going to drive a Subaru this year - possibly as team-mate to Crocker.

The biggest team to ever enter the APRC is Team New Caledonia - SIX drivers from New Caledonia are planning to enter the 2007 championship headed by veteran Jean-Louis Leyraud [See story below].

Japanese driver Katsu Taguchi will return with an MRF Mitsubishi, while Taguchi team-mate last year Jarkko Miettinen in believed to be trying to get a budget together, along with another Finnish driver. Young Australian driver Eli Evans is still believed to be in the frame for a drive in APRC. Entries expected from New Zealand include Mitsubishi driver Geof Argyle returning to the series after a year off, while Marty Rostenburg is entered for the first 2 rounds and is considering putting his name on entry. A team of Ford Fiesta's is on the cards with plenty of interest in this class - checkout the possiblities of entering at www.namsport.co.nz.

Team New Caledonia enters six teams in 2007 Asia Pacific Rally Championship

Jean-Louis Leyraud
The beautiful Pacific island of New Caledonia is the scene for the first round of the 2007 Asia Pacific Rally Championship, Rallye de Nouvelle-Calédonie and this year the French territory will add a new element to the series with an announcement that six teams will enter the championship under the banner 'Team New Caledonia'.

Leading Team New Caledonia and driving a Subaru Impreza will be 55 year old Jean-Louis Leyraud who has been rallying for 35 years and competed in Morocco, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand. Leyraud has been crowned New Caledonian rally champion 10 times and competed in the 2002 APRC where he finished 4th in Group N. His international experience will be invaluable as Team New Caledonia takes on the different conditions, cultures and climates of the seven round series in 2007.

Patrick Yanai
Leyraud will be joined by experienced Mitsubishi drivers Daniel Palau (41yrs) and Patrick Christian (45 yrs) who are regular international competitors in New Zealand and of course New Caledonia where Palau has been New Caledonian champion 4 times and Christian finished 2nd in the 2006 series. Christian was beaten to the New Caledonian rally title in the final event by Patrick Yanai, who will also join Team New Caledonia and drive a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8. Other drivers in the team and looking forward to the international experience are Alexis Burbou and Robert Christian.

All six drivers are hoping to finish in the top 5 and are of course looking forward to taking on the other international APRC competitors when they compete in their home event the 2007 APRC Rally of New Caledonia 13-15 April. 'It is with great pleasure that we announce Team New Caledonia's six car team and we plan to use it to promote and put New Caledonia on the map. This a great adventure not only for the rally crews, but also for our country' said Gaëtan Barretteau, President of the CORNC and ASANC. Further information on 2007 Rallye de Nouvelle-Calédonie can be found at www.rallye-nc.net

Hella International Rally of Whangarei... boon for Northland

International motor rallying will return to Northland when the region hosts the New Zealand round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship in May. Organisers are thrilled to be able to secure the world-class rallying roads in the Kaipara and Whangarei regions for the inaugural Hella International Rally of Whangarei, launched in Whangarei last night.

The Rally, to be held from 11 to 13 May will be the second leg of the six-round FIA Asia Pacific Championship as well as the second round of the New Zealand Rally Championship. It is expected to attract approximately 80 total entries including up to 40 competitors from seven or eight countries in the Hella International Rally of Whangarei along with a similar number in the supporting Clubman’s Rally, which is a round of the Motorsport New Zealand Rally Xtreme Championship as well as the Fram North Island Rally Series.

The organisers expect to attract entries from Australia, China, New Caledonia, Japan, Malaysia, Europe and Indonesia against the best New Zealanders including national champion Richard Mason, who will defend his Asia Pacific round victory in Rotorua last year.

The event is also expected to be a windfall for the Whangarei and Kaipara regions in terms of economic impact as well as international exposure. “We anticipate the event will realize an economic return of up to $5 million into the local community directly from the competitors and their support teams, volunteers and fans,” said Laurie Brenssell, chairman of the organising committee.

“Equally the Asia Pacific Championship realizes a significant amount of international television and media coverage which will show off this wonderful Northland region.” The total potential television audience for the Asia Pacific Championship event is two billion viewers. In addition to the APRC's own official global television coverage, last year’s event also attracted coverage from Guangdong-TV, one of China's biggest television networks that reaches a potential 200 million viewers in southern China. Other regular coverage comes from the likes of Metro TV Indonesia which has a further 45 million potential viewers. There are regularly up 20 international media that will attend the event.

“This overall region and the roads in the Kaipara particularly are some of the best rally roads in the world,” Mr Brenssell said. “They proved extremely popular over the years and have thoroughly tested the World Rally Championship drivers, and it is a privilege to be allowed to use them for this event. “We also receive incredible support from the local community groups in the Kaipara as well as the Whangarei District Council, the Northland Car Club and Enterprise Northland. “It will prove an exciting event and we believe it will be a win-win for everyone.”

Whangarei Mayor Pamela Peters said the Hella International Rally of Whangarei provides outstanding opportunities for the Northland. “It presents an opportunity to showcase the region and the district throughout New Zealand and to a massive international television audience,” Mayor Peters said. It also offers the opportunity to showcase the Quayside Town Basin area, and for our business sector. “It gives us a chance to better understand the economic benefits from such an event and the chance to build our event capability. It’s been shown that significant numbers of people will travel to watch international events in New Zealand. “The Hella International Rally of Whangarei will be an exhilarating spectacle.”


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