The 4th Round of the 2002 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), The Rally Hokkaido 2002 concluded the 3-day event today with New Zealand's Possum Bourne (Subaru Impreza) taking the inaugural victory.
The event ran a total of 1075.35km (with 20 SS sections totaling 254.1 km) around Obihiro City in the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan. Marcos Ligato of Argentina finished 2nd overall with Japan's Fumio Nutahara finishing 3rd in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Katsuhiko Taguchi (Lancer Evolution) was a mere 8.5 seconds behind top runner Bourne, but sustained a three punctures in SS17 and SS18. He was forced to retire after the conclusion of SS18.
In the Group N category, Argetine Marcos Ligato triumphed.
|Leg 1 September 5th (Thursday) and 6th (Friday)
SS5 (Legs 1 to 5 / 66.59km) Total distance 296.57km
Temperature : 10-15 degrees centigrade
Weather : Cloudy, occasional rain
Surface conditions : wet
Katsuhiko Taguchi finishes in 2nd place overall, achieving the top SS times twice!
After the start of Leg 1 on the morning of September 5th and continuing on the 6thNew Zealand's Possum Bourne (Subaru Impreza) lands in top position with an SS time of 58 minutes 22.5 seconds. JapanŐs Katsuhiko Taguchi in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is close behind with a margin of only 17.5 seconds. In third is Karamjit Singh of Malaysia behind the wheel of the Proton Pert. Fumio Nutahara, competing in the Group N category lands in 4th position (Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution). The off and on conditions of the rain causes havoc on the road conditions, contrasting considerably from the recce (pre-event course survey). With the rain causing unpredictably slippery roads, drivers had to cope with sudden changes in surface conditions. There is wet grass throughout the narrow tricky course and once the tire hits the grass, it becomes slippery and uncontrollable. Even APRC veterans Bourne, Taguchi and Singh had trouble navigating this narrow course but subsequently maneuvered through the dangerous course without error. Before the start Singh mentioned that he wasn't looking forward to SS2. As he had rightly predicted, he finished the longest course, SS2 and SS4 (run through the same course with a total of 24.17km) in 3rd position. On the other hand, Taguchi managed to finish in both SS with the best SS times followed close behind by Bourne, leaving Singh in a distant third.
With the conclusion of Leg 1, Taguchi positioned himself with the top SS time in SS2 and SS4 with the remaining SS times (SS1, SS3 and SS5) going to Bourne. The remainder of the event looks to be a battle between the top APRC veterans. Other finishes include Argentina's Marcos Ligato driving a Mitsubishi in 5th. Subaru's Hiroshi Yanagisawa finished in 6th. Mitsubishi's Takuma Kamata in 7th. Subaru's Mitsuo Ayabe 8th. Mitsubishi's Masayuki Ishida 9th. Mitsubishi's Ed Ordynski 10th position.
|Leg 2 September 7th (Saturday)
SS8 (Legs 6 to 13 / 107.62km) Total distance 521.50km
Temperature : Approximately 12 degrees centigrade
Weather : Party cloudy; rain
Surface conditions : Wet
Katsuhiko Taguchi faces stiff competition from Bourne.
In Leg 2 Bourne continues to retain his top position. Taguchi shortens the distance by 8.5 seconds in 2nd position. The battle between the top runners ensues in Leg 2 through the mountainous regions of western Obihiro. Rain welcomed the drivers in the early morning hours turning to overcast skies in the afternoon. The surrounding trees have begun to turn color giving the area a distinct feeling of approaching autumn. The road conditions were considerably different between the morning and afternoon. Singh who positioned himself in 3rd position the day before widen the gap as he encountered turbo trouble. The SS were run through 8 courses (running 4 of the routes twice). In the end, the time difference between Bourne and Taguchi stood at only 8.5 seconds. When Leg 1 finished, the gap was 17.5 seconds. Taguchi marks the top SS times in SS 10, 11, and 12 in succession, drastically shrinking the gap between himself and Bourne. In the first round Taguchi opted for soft tyres with grooves to counter the unpredictably wet conditions. In Leg 2 he opted to increase the grooves even more. "The tyres was very compatible with the road conditions, although it did get a little dry, I think it was pretty successful", said an enthusiastic Taguchi after the conclusion of Leg 2. New ZealandŐs Bourne seems to have kept the pace, at least for now. In Leg 1 he was able to get top SS times in 3 sections but in Leg 2 only one after SS10 and it was the shortest SS (SS13).
"I misread the weather and unfortunately made an incorrect tyre choice. In the afternoon, the rear tyres were extremely slippery and difficult to control. I'm going to have to check the shock absorbers and suspension," said a slightly dejected Bourne.
Ligato moves up to 3rd position (1st in Group N) with Nutahara securing the 4th position (2nd in Group N). Yanagisawa in 5th. Ordynski in 6th. Singh in 7th. Warren in 8th. Leyroud in 9th. Ayabe in 10th position.
|Leg 3 September 8th (Sunday)
SS7 (Legs 14 to 20 / 79.89km) Total distance 257.28km
Temperature : Approximately 15 degrees centigrade
Weather : Cloudy
Surface conditions : Dry
Although Katsuhiko Taguchi was plagued by bad roads,
The sky was overcast but there was no rain. The predicted course was relatively easy, but with the repeat run of SS14 and SS17, the top drivers began calling them the "nightmare SS". But the biggest shock probably was to Taguchi. He ended up sustaining a puncture on SS17, taking almost 2 minutes and a half changing the flat. He was able to regain his form in SS18 but there was another trap waiting for him in the form of a left front flat. After concluding the SS, this time he finds a small leak in the left rear wheel, making it 3 flats during 2 successive SS sections! He exchanged the left front tyre with the undamaged front right tyre. "I figured if I could just pull it through with the front wheels, well I just might make it," commented Taguchi. But the effort proved impossible and he was forced to retire.
"After Leg 2 my pace was gradually increasing and just when I thought I was going to give it a go I have trouble with the front differential in the beginning of today's SS. That turned out alright but the 3 punctures was quite unexpected," added a disappointed TaguchiÓ, "I was 2 minutes from the top and 2 minutes separated me from 3rd...," he added, clearly disappointed that he had missed out on a 2nd overall win. As with Taguchi, Karamjit Sigh was also plagued by punctures who churned out top times in SS14, 15 and 16 fighting his way from 7th to 5th position the previous day. However, he sustained an untimely puncture in SSW17. "The second time I ran the course there were deeper ruts dug into the tracks. I could see concrete drainage ditches crossing the track and peeking out through the dirt. One hit against one of these concrete edges and it flattened my tyre, it was just awful," commented an apparently dejected Singh. Taguchi too damaged his wheel in the same way.
For a driver who earlier commented, "I was hoping to gain the top times in all the SS sections of the final day," it must have been quite a shock. The biggest obstacle on this event was how the drivers would safely navigate the 2nd running of the course.