When Cody Crocker woke up on Sunday, the final day of Rally Hokkaido, he would not have expected to have it so easy. But by the end of an action-packed day -- even by rallying standards -- he not only had the winning smile intact, it was actually wider as he now sits pretty on top of the APRC Championship table with 48 points.
Crocker continued to enjoy a dream debut with the Asia Pacific Rally Championship to extend his winning streak here with a timing of 2:26:53.1. Driving for Team Les Walkden Rallying in his first season with the APRC, he has now won all three events he has participated in so far to take the maximum possible points.
More importantly, the win opens up a huge gap of 17 points between him and his nearest rival, Katsuhiko Taguchi of Team MRF Tyres, who finished third (2:29:15.2) behind Hiroshi Yanagisawa of Team Cusco Racing (2:28:09.5), in this event.
``I am happy to win three out of three races so far, and will try to continue with a consistent approach in the next races also,`` he said, holding the winners` trophy. ``But yes, I was surprised that Katsu was not faster. I think there was some brake problem. But Yanagisawa was very fast and it was tough staying in the lead. The tracks were also slippery the first time and very rough the second, so it was difficult to control the car,`` he added.
Something Taguchi admitted. ``We tried hard but were done in by a brakeline failure in the penultimate stage. But the tyres were much better (than Saturday) and we will try to do some more practice before the next race (in Malaysia),`` he said.
Jarkko Meittinen of Team MRF Tyres finished fourth with a timing of 2:29:23.5. More importantly, he managed to finish a race for the first time this year, and this would surely give him more confidence for the future races. Of the nine APRC drivers in the event, only eight could finish the race with Dermott Mailley retiring in the 14the stage with a damaged car.
Mailley`s pulling out was not the only accident during the day. Stage 11 of the race was more about confusion and lack of communication than any competition. With the zero car -- that acts as the last obstacle between the cars and the actual race-- crashing as it toppled over the track, the stage was delayed by almost an hour. When the rallyists finally did start, the stage was stopped after four cars had gone by, only to be informed that the stage was cancelled to make up for the lost time. With no information available with the organisers, it was quite some time before the actual situation became clear.
Since four cars had already sped past, it was finally decided to keep the stage and let their timings stand. But for the rest, provisional timings were awarded and the next stage was continued. This is for only the second time in six years of rallying in Japan that the zero car crashed, something not very comforting.