Taguchi perilously placed
Half the field unable to finish first four of the eight special stages
A disappointing day for MRF Tyres Rally Team
JOHOR BAHRU: On a rainy day when most of the drivers, including a few accomplished, found the slushy terrain difficult to manoeuvre, Cody Crocker of Australia (co-driver Ben Atkinson) held firm to show the way in the Ancom Malaysian Asia Pacific Rally Championship here on Saturday.
Tricky conditions in the oil palm fields saw half the field unable to finish the first four of the eight Special Stages.
It was truly a disappointing day for MRF Tyres Rally Team. Two of its finest drivers, APRC championship leader Katsuhiko Taguchi (Mark Stacey) and Gaurav Gill (Jagdev Singh), rammed into a ditch and mud puddle respectively and failed to complete the race.
In Special Stage 6, Taguchi’s sight was hampered by heavy rain and he drove his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 into a ditch and couldn’t recover.
However, he will start on Sunday, but this could effectively dash his hopes for a strong finish this weekend.
This is Taguchi’s last APRC round for the year, while Crocker still has the seventh and final round in China to earn valuable championship points.
Gill was doing really well in the first three stages. Unfortunately in Special Stage 4, he hit a rock which resulted in the oil cooler of his car getting damaged.
Gill is not sure whether he’ll start on Sunday. He said it would depend on whether his car is set right on time.
Many drivers found the stages more slippery than anticipated and as a result, the dry tyres they had chosen for the race were not gripping the surface. And to make matters worse, even before Special Stage 5 could begin, the skies opened up, making it tougher for the drivers.
New Zealand’s Mark Tapper (co-driver Jeff Judd) clocked the fastest overall time with Australia’s Eli Evans (Chris Murphy) close behind.
India’s Arjun Rao Aroor (Musa Sheriff) and Indonesia’s Rizal Sungkar (Anthony Sarwono) also managed to finish the difficult race.
Crocker, who finished first in the first leg, said the conditions were indeed slippery and difficult.
Coming into the eighth round, the Australian was trailing Taguchi by six points in the overall tally, but now it looks like Crocker might walk away with the honours.
“Taguchi piled on the pressure but we were determined to run the rally at our own pace and that was exactly what we did,” said the Subaru driver.
Six Special Stages will be held on Sunday.
The results (provisional): 1. Cody Crocker & Ben Atkinson (Aus) 1 hour, 56 minutes, 55 seconds; 2. Hiroshi Yanagisawa & Yoshimasa Nakahara (Jpn) 1:59.17; 3. Mark Tapper & Jeff Judd (NZ) 2:03.46; 4. Rifat Sungkar (Ina) & Bill Hayes (Aus) 2:04.52; 5. Scott Pedder & Glen Weston (Aus) 2:07.41.