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GP Week : Issue 54
Aussie Crocker on top at Hokkaido Rally AUSTRALIAN Subaru driver Cody Crocker scored his third successive maximum Asia Pacific Rally Championship points on the Hokkaido Rally in northern Japan, the fourth round of the series. Chased hard by the Mitsubishi of Katsuhiko Taguchi he was holding a lead of around a quarter minute during Day 1 when the Japanese driver had a puncture, then trailing Crocker into second place for the rest of the event. Last year’s winner Toshi Arai again contested the rally as a non- championship entry, took the lead on the opening Superspecial, but went off the road at high speed when the steering failed. On the first orthodox stage the Indian Mitsubishi driver Gaurav Gill took the lead, and he also left the road.¬¬¬ This left Hiroshi Yanagisawa’s Mitsubishi heading Crocker’s Subaru teammate, New Zealander Emma Gilmour. Both Arai and Gill were able to restart on Day 2, when Arai scored several fastest times. This event was a qualifying event for the APRC Pirelli Star Driver system, the winning candidate from this event being 24 year- old Suguru Kawana at the wheel of an older Group N Subaru. As 2009 is the World Championship Rally Japan rotational gap-year, Rally Hokkaido was the country’s most important rally of the year. It was again based at Obihiro and ran in the area used in earlier years by the World Championship event. Fortunately the weather stayed mainly dry but later drivers reported the forest tracks became badly rutted. With three more events to run, Crocker is on his way to winning the title for a fourth time, currently leading Taguchi in the series by 13 points. 1 2 3 hokkaido Rally Crocker/Atkinson K Taguchi/Stacey Yanagisawa/Nakahara Subaru Impreza N14 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 2h15m05.9s 2h16m15.8s 2h17m49.7s Hanninen and skoda dominate Rally Russia SKODA drivers Juho Hanninen and Jan Kopecky dominated the IRC Russia Rally, with Hanninen winning this event for the second year running. Their team took full advantage of troubles for rival Fiats and the absence on this occasion of the championship- leading Peugeot cars from the Kronos team. Absentee Kris Meeke still heads the series but Kopecky is now only one point behind. This three-day event was based again at Vyborg and run over fast but soft-surfaced tracks in conditions made difficult by recent rains which deepened water crossings and led to many punctures when rocks became dislodged. The Skodas showed their superior pace in Shakedown but a surprise third fastest was the Swede Patrik Flodin’s Subaru, a car not eligible for IRC points. They were ahead of the two Fiats and the Proton of Guy Wilks. Hanninen went immediately into the lead on Day 1 and proceeded to win every stage on the rally except one, with Kopecky almost immediately rising to second. There were many dramas. Top seeded orthodox Group N driver Andrey Zhigunov (Mitsubishi) lost seven minutes with a puncture and withdrew from the event; Alen started a troubled event with his cockpit drenched with water which entered the roof vent; Wittmann’s Mitsubishi had two punctures; Flodin was slowed by power steering problems which dropped him from fourth to seventh; and leader Hanninen was delayed by the police for a traffic infringement! Aleksandr Zheludov, a regular Mitsubishi driver, had rented a Peugeot for this event and was delayed with ignition trouble. Top non Skoda was third placed Wilks. On Day 2, Wilks lost nearly four minutes changing a punctured tyre falling from third to seventh and Flodin was delayed with a broken driveshaft. Anton Alen, the 2007 winner, climbed up to third overall, but then lost a wheel and stopped on Stage 9, allowing Rally Russia 1 Hanninen/Markkula Skoda Fabia S2000 2 Kopecky/Stary 3 Basso/Dotta Fiat Grande Punto S2000 1h49m21.2s Skoda Fabia S2000 1h45m15.2s 1h46m36.1s his teammate Giandomenico Basso up to a podium placing. Alen returned for the final six stages on Day 3 and immediately passed Wittmann and then rose to sixth when Zheludov retired with mechanical problems and ended up sixth behind Wilks and in front of Wittmann – only then to be given his extra penalty. Flodin’s fourth place gave him his third Russian championship win this year and every possibility of becoming the first foreign Russian champion.