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GP Week : Issue 6
VETERAN Japanese driver Katsuhiko Taguchi and Australian co-driver Mark Stacey (right) have won the Rally New Caledonia, the opening round of the 2008 FIA Asia Pacific championship, after leading the two-day event from start to finish. Their Mitsubishi finished nearly two minutes ahead of the Subaru of Australian driver Dean Herridge, while the third and final championship finisher was 60 year- old Mitsubishi driver Brian Green from New Zealand. Another Australian, Scott Pedder, had been lying second at half way but slid off the road on the second day as did Japanese driver Hiroshi Yanagisawa. Gaurav Gill, the only entrant eligible for the new Pirelli regional championship young driver scheme withdrew before the event after suffering injuries in a motorcycle accident back home in India. Third place in the rally's overall results was the non-championship local driver Jean-Louis Leyraud (Subaru). He gained points for the subsidiary Pacific Cup which comprises APRC events in that region. Fellow New Caledonia drivers did not fare so well. Fiat Grande Punto S2000 driver Gael Lecerf crashed, Patrick Yanai had gearbox failure and Christian Patrick could not make his car fire up at the start of a stage on Day 2. Round two will be the Rally of Canberra, this year the most important rally in Australia, to run in mid May. A full championship entry with the possible exception of Gill is promised for the Australian event. HOURS before the start of New Caledonia Rally, opening round of the Asia-Pacific championship, the FIA released details of Pirelli's Find-a-Driver system. At present, only one APRC entry, MRF team driver Guarev Gill from India, is under the 27 year- old age limit specified by the programme – and he had to withdraw from the opening rally because of injuries from a motorcycle accident. Series coordinator Murray Brown, speaking from rally headquarters at Noumea, said there was frantic work to be done: “APRC regulations say that championship entries close next Friday (18 April), so we have only got days in which to recruit some new young competitors, and we still haven't seen any detailed paperwork from the FIA.” African series coordinator Surinder Thatthi was more hopeful. “We already know of six drivers who would be able to qualify, three from Kenya, two for South Africa and one from Tanzania,” but there are no details about eligible Middle East drivers. It is also not yet known how the one driver from each of these three series will be selected, but preliminary information suggests that the two drivers to emerge from the European series will be selected after a three-day ‘shoot-out’. Finally the Star Drivers are Coming Taguchi Scores in New Caledonia Guarev Gill – qualifies for the Pirelli award, but missed New Caledonia WRC news >> 13