P. Satish Kumar

CANBERRA: The script did not conform to Team MRF’s plans. Katsuhiko Taguchi (co-driver Mark Stacey) was to give Cody Crocker a tough fight in the second round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) here on Saturday. But he had to pull out midway through Special Stage 2 (SS2).

Engine failure is believed to be the reason for Taguchi’s misfortune.

With Taguchi unable to take any further part on the first day of the rally, it has dealt a serious blow to his title aspirations since he would have been hoping to finish on the podium and pick up valuable points before the next round in New Zealand.

Should the problem in the car be fixed, he can take part on Sunday. But his chance of finishing among the top three is completely ruled out.

Team MRF, however, had some reason to cheer as its other driver Scott Pedder of Australia (co-driver Glen Weston) in his Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX is giving good competition for Crocker.

Pedder sizzles

In fact, Pedder clocked the best timing in Special Stage 4. He finished the stage in 5minutes and 9 seconds and was ahead of Crocker by 4 seconds. In Special Stage 5, Pedder was second best with a timing of 3:39.9 while Crocker clocked 3:40.1.

Crocker, however, had the last laugh when he finished first at the end of day one with an overall timing of 1 hour 12 minutes, 13.5 seconds. It was pretty evident that he knew how to deal with the slippery routes of Canberra.

Crocker obviously was delighted with his performance.

He said: “No problems. A great start to the rally.” He was a little upset with the shock absorbers in his Subaru Impreza WRX. “I was a little disappointed with the shock absorber settings but have made some adjustments. The tyre wear was minimal, which is quite surprising.”

A difference of about 39 seconds separates Pedder from Crocker and the Team MRF driver can hope for a better result at the end of this round.

He said on Friday that he would do well on home turf and proved his point. He has been pushing Crocker very hard and hit the nail on head when he said: “Very dusty following in Cody’s wake. But I am doing my best and pushing very hard. I am very happy generally.”

Pedder could have done better had he not hit a gate post in Special Stage 1 and lost valuable time because of that. After finishing second overall, he would hope to do well on Sunday, where another nine special stages would be run, to garner maximum possible points.

The team which came in third was also another Australian pair of Eli Evans (co-driver Jennifer Cole) in a Subaru Imprezza, confirming the theory that only the locals do well in the Rally of Canberra.

The results (top five only) (provisional, after Special Stage 9): 1. Cody Crocker, Motor Image Rally Team, 1 hour, 12 minutes, 13.5 seconds; 2. Scott Pedder, Team MRF, 1:12:52.3; 3. Eli Evans, Peter Evans, 1:13:15.9; 4. Dean Herridge, Cusco Racing, 1:13:32.4 and 5. Guy Wilks, Honda Australia, 1:14:57.0. (Katsuhiko Taguchi, Did Not Finish).

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