China Rally was definitely one of the toughest events of the year but Subaru rally driver Cody Crocker showed why he is the 2006 Asia-Pacific Rally Champion, winning his sixth event of the season.
Behind the Australian came Hiroshi Yanagisawa in the CUSCO Subaru and securing enough points to take second place in the championship race ahead of Mitsubishi's Katsu Taguchi who did not finish this event and scored no points. Indonesian Rifat Sungkar battled his way through the conditions to finish 3rd in APRC and score his 3rd podium finish of the season. The only other finisher in APRC was Brian Green who finished 4th.
Only four finishers in APRC was a reflection of the very tough conditions that faced the cars and drivers in this event that was held in the beautiful countryside around Longyou. The twisty mountain roads were made extremely treacherous by several weeks of rain prior to and during the rally - and after several passes the roads became muddy and rutted.
For Crocker and co-driver Ben Atkinson the slippery conditions were just another challenge "This was defintely the toughest event in the APRC this year, but they're all a challenge for various reasons. The roads were a quagmire here, absolutely diabolical, but we stayed clean the whole way and got the points," Crocker said. "This championship is second in standing only to the World Championship, so it means a lot to the whole team to win it. Full credit to Les Walkden and the team. He gave Ben and me this opportunity, and his team has produced a brilliant car. We go to Monte Carlo to collect the title at the official FIA dinner Friday week, so that will be a big thrill to be there with all the other world and regional champions from all forms of Motorsport."
For Yanagisawa his 2nd place was the result of determination and clean driving "The Cusco team and I have learnt so much from our year in APRC. Every country is so different and although I have competed in China Rally two times, this was the most difficult" said Yanagisawa at the last service. Rifat Sungkar was equally pleased with a great finish on his first attempt at the Asia Pacific series "We expected for the first year we could get 6th or 7th place, but its fantastic I have finished three times on the podium and 4th overall in the championship - next year I want to return and improve my driving further".
The event was disaster for the MRF Mitsubishi team loosing Katsu Taguchi early on SS3 after loosing a wheel. Jarkko Miettinen was in third position going into the final day when he had gearbox problems and retired. Taguchi started the 2nd leg to gain bonus points, but then he too went out with gearbox problems on the very last stage. By not finishing the event the Japanese driver lost his 2nd position in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, over-taken by his countryman Yanagisawa. Dermott Malley retired with mechanical problems on the 2nd day, Eli Evans was a victim of the mud and slippery conditions when he slid off the road on the final day. The APRC's Chinese competitor Fan Fan retired on the Superspecial after rolling his Mitsubishi - in front of a very large home crowd.
In the overall event Crocker was 1st, followed by New Zealander Richard Mason who won the Chinese Rally Championship catergory in a GT-Tires Subaru. Yanigisawa was 3rd overall and the first Chinese competitor Caodong Liu was 4th also in a Subaru.
The Asia Pacific Rally Championshp will resume on April 15th, 2007 with the first event held on the beautiful Pacific Island of New Caledonia.
APRC Results for 2006 China Rally
1 C Crocker (Aus), B Atkinson (Aus), Subaru Impreza WRX STI, 22.214.171.124
2 H Yanagisawa (J), T Misaizu (J), Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +08.23.9
3. R Sungkar (Ind), A Mohamad (Ind), Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9, +20.27.7
4. B Green (NZ), F Pedersen(NZ), Mitsubishi Lancer Evo9, +20.27.7