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14 September 2003
2003 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship / Round 3
Rally Hokkaido

Mitsubishi's Geoff Argyle and Armin Kremer 1st and 2nd in the
third round of the 2003 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
The third round of the 2003 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), the Rally Hokkaido, finished on Sunday, September 14th. The third and final leg took the competitors over 175.54 km of rough mountainous roads, including five special stages totaling 55.63 km. Subaru’s Toshihiro Arai, who is not registered for the APRC, took his Impreza to the overall victory with a total SS time of 2 hours, 59 minutes and 55 seconds. Geoff Argyle and Steve Smith of New Zealand finished in second place and Germany’s Armin Kremer was third, making it a 1-2 finish for the Asia Pacific Rally Championship-registered Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
There were high expectations for Fumio Nutahara in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, but unfortunately he was forced to retire during the second leg. Veteran rally driver Katsuhiko Taguchi also retired, but made the necessary repairs to his Lancer Evolution and continued the battle utilizing the "SUPERally" regulations to finish the event. He managed to display some of his impressive driving skills for action-hungry fans and safely finished the event.

 Fair whether on leg 3 with two Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions running in the top

After the rain during the second day, the skies turned to a bright blue for the final leg and the green forests around the Tokachi area seemed to come alive. It turned out to be a beautiful Sunday in Obihiro. Large numbers of spectators flocked to the service park which was established in the northern Obihiro area. There was a festival-like atmosphere throughout the morning as fans gathered under the bright blue sky. The Rally Hokkaido was an eagerly anticipated event for the local population. The spectators were not only gathered at the service park but also at Toyokoro area in order to get a glimpse of the final special stage. Large groups of spectators lined the forest roads to witness the skillful driving displayed by the competitors. The Japanese spectators are very well mannered and the area’s preparations towards the event as a new round of the World Rally Championship seems perfect. The Toyokoro district, where the third leg takes place, features challenging roads, not very high-speed but twisty, with sharp, difficult corners.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Last year the special stages used for leg 3 were run twice, which obviously tended to severely damage the track. Therefore, this year officials opted to run the course only once. There was considerable fear among the competitors that the violent typhoon rains the day before would damage the road conditions. However, they were not as bad as expected.

 Nutahara powers his way to the finish under the "SUPERally" regulations and scores six points.

The Asia Pacific Rally Championship rules allow competitors to leg points even after they retire. During each leg the fastest registered driver may gain three points with second and third placed finishers gaining two and one point respectively. The first to triumph on the first SS of the day was Malaysia’s rally hero Karamjit Singh behind the wheel of a Proton. He was one of the competitors who retired and then utilized the "SUPERally" regulations to take the fight to the finish. Singh’s machine allows for more modifications than a Group N vehicle, but that did not stop Arai and Nutahara from backing off. Nutahara had dominated leg 1 and, after retiring during leg two, he was again the fastest among the registered drivers on leg 3. He eventually set the fastest time in SS 18. Thus, he scored six valuable points (the winner of the rally is awarded 10 points).

After the conclusion of the rally, Nutahara commented: "I really wanted to win this rally and enjoy the series, but it didn’t go as planned. Geof Argyle scored 15 points, so he is now ahead. But the difference is only two points. I hope to get back in form on the Rally of Thailand".

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Taguchi, who also took advantage of the "SUPERally" regulation after retiring, said: "Today’s stages were really twisty and I was not able to control the car’s steering. However, I really got used to the car after three days of driving". Taguchi has already confirmed his entry in the upcoming Rally of Thailand and it looks like we will witness more of his exciting performance.

 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions dominate the Championship with the top three positions.

"I am really glad that I was able to stand on the podium. It was a really tough rally but it was also quite enjoyable to run. I thought Nutahara was really fast but am very happy to be able to beat him", commented Argyle with an expression of content on his face after his victory in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship category.

Third placed Armin Kremer, who drives a World Rally Car in the World Rally Championship and the European Rally Championship, was equally happy. "Usually, I am good at tarmac events, but I am fairly satisfied with the final result. I am not completely used to the Asia Pacific Rally Championship conditions or the Group N car, but I hope to give it my best for the remaining events", said the German driver. In the Asia Pacific Rally Championship points Geof Argyle now stands in first, Nutahara in second and Kremer in third. The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions dominate the series with the top three positions. In Group N, Kremer takes the top honors, followed by Nutahara in second and Masumura in third. Again the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions dominate the ranking.

The next event will for sure bring a fierce battle. The fourth round of the APRC, the China Rally was cancelled, so the next event will be the Rally of Thailand which will take place from October 31st to November 2nd.


  Driver / Co-driver Nat. Car Total Time Difference
 Toshihiro ARAI / Tony SIRCOMBE J/NZ  Subaru Impreza Gr.N   
 Geof ARGYLE / Steve SMITH (AP) NZ  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution  + 4.07.2 
 Armin KREMER / Fred BERSSEN (AP) D  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr.N  + 5.56.5 
 Takuma KAMADA / Mitsuhiko HIRUTA J  Subaru Impreza Gr.N  + 6.13.6 
 Daniel CARLSSON / Mattias ANDERSSON S  Suzuki Ignis Super 1600  + 7.34.9 
 Seiichiro TAGUCHI / Masaru SAKASHITA J  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr.N  + 10.12.6 
 Yozo WATANABE / Shigeru IKEDA J  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr.N  + 11.24.9 
 Eiichi IWASHITA / Noriko TAKESHITA J  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr.N  + 11.35.2 
 Norihiko KATSUTA / Mitsuhiro YAMAMOTO J  Subaru Impreza Gr.N  + 13.45.7 
10   Christopher ATKINSON / Benjamin ATKINSON (AP) AUS  Suzuki Ignis Super 1600  + 13.46.1 
11   Ryuji HORIKAWA / Tuyoshi KAJIYAMA J  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr.N  + 16.13.8 
12   Daisuke YAMADA / Takayuki NUMAO J  Subaru Impreza Gr.N  + 17.40.6 
13   Masashi KANAI / Masahiko KIHARA J  Subaru Impreza Gr.N  + 18.37.8 
14   Katsuyuki OSAWA / Takashi TAIRAKU J  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr.N  + 19.15.6 
15   Yutaka AWAZUHARA / Akihiko TAKAHASHI J  Suzuki Ignis Super 1600  + 20.29.1 
16   Hisatoshi YOSHITANI / Makoto OKADA J  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr.N  + 22.58.2 
17   Atsushi MASUMURA / Yukinori FUKUMURA (AP) J  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr.N  + 24.18.3 
18   Yuji NAKATA / Sachiko HIROTA J  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr.N  + 26.46.2 
19   Takashi NISHI / Nobuyoshi HARA J  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr.N  + 27.24.7 
20   Masahiro NAKAJIMA / Naoki KUROSAKI J  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr.N  + 27.41.3 
22   Brian GREEN / Fleur PEDERSEN (AP) NZ  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution  + 29.34.4 
23   Koji BABA / Masanobu SUGIYAMA J  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr.N  + 29.42.3 
24   Yukinobu NOMURA / Fumiaki SATOH J  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr.N  + 31.35.1 
26   Andrew HAWKESWOOD / Paul FALLON (AP) NZ  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution  + 33.41.6 
27   Tatsuru SAITO / Yoshihito NARITA J  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr.N  + 34.21.3 
28   Kozue OI / Hiromi KAJIKUMA J  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr.N  + 35.59.0 
29   Mitsuhiro AOKI / Fumika AOKI J  Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Gr.N  + 41.35.0 
(AP) = Drivers registered for the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship
Nationalities: AUS=Australia/ D=Germany/ J=Japan/ NZ=New Zealand/ S=Sweden/