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Chance for Taguchi to turn the tables

Being in Crocker's slipstream for four rounds, and the fifth one ? the Malaysian Rally championship ? time is fast running out for Taguchi to hunt down Crocker, writes Varun Gupta.

india Updated: Aug 19, 2006 02:03 IST
Varun Gupta
Varun Gupta

The sooner you fall behind, the more time you'll have to catch up.

Trailing Australian Cody Crocker (Subaru Impreza WRC) by 18 points in the FIA-Asia Pacific Rally Championship, how Japan's Katsuhiko Taguchi (Mitsubishi Evo 9, of Team MRF Tyres) would be hoping that Steven Wright — the eccentric American who always believed in chasing than leading — is right.

However, being in Crocker's slipstream for four rounds, and the fifth one — the Malaysian Rally championship — commencing here on Saturday, time is fast running out for Taguchi to hunt down Crocker.

The three-time Australian National Rally champion has waltzed past the rest of the pack so far and is within touching distance of winning the title if he enjoys a successful Malaysian sojourn.

Crocker's performance this year has bordered on the robotic as he has won all three rounds in which he's competed — Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Taguchi, on the other hand, has only the New Caledonia win to show for his three starts. He knows that he cannot afford to keep the ball further in play, and simply has to go for the knockout in this serene city on the southern tip of Malaysia.

Johor Bahru — far from the continental climates of Down Under where Crocker took the giant leap towards the title — with its debilitating humidity and stifling heat, will be a battle of attrition particularly, as this is the first time that the sinewy Aussie has set foot in Malaysia, at least first as a rally driver.

For Taguchi though, the Malaysian terrain and climate is like a second home and this is where he can turn the tap on Crocker.

Adapting to the changing situatiions that life throws up has been Crocker's forte but the unknown always is a daunting mountain to traverse.

The rain is in the offing here and if it does come, then it really will set the cat among the pigeons. Driving on the track, when wet, is like skating on thin ice and rain can really make the conditions precarious.

On Friday, however, Crocker's confidence came to the fore, as he was hopeful of maintaining his supremacy in the APRC. "There are no major worries," he said.

"The climate is a major factor but I believe that we are well equipped to do the job. Our Pirelli tyres also showed promise as during the shakedown earlier, there was minimal tyrewear and that gives us hope,” Crocker added.

Taguchi, on the other hand, was confident of striking a discordant chord in Crocker's joyous song. "The weather will play a big role. I hope that the experience of rallying in such conditions before will stand me in good stead. Also, the other Team MRF driver Jarkko Miettinen of Finland (Mitsubishi).”

Evo appears agog for the race as he's coming from a win in the China National Rally Championship. He will have a new partner in Tuomo Nikkola.

First Published: Aug 19, 2006 02:03 IST