The second part of Leg 1 of the 2009 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship and Guanghe-Xinhu Scenery Garden Cup China Rally Longyou 2009 is held today. After nine stages, Australia ’s Cody Crocker of the Motor Image Racing Team, at the wheels of Subaru led all other drivers home in two hours four minutes and 40.7 seconds. The best Chinese driver was Li Wei of the Subaru Rally Team who ranked 8th overall.

After the super special stage a day earlier, the official stage race kicked off today with the day’s temperature back to 12 degrees Centigrade. The sun came out after days of rains. The nine stages totaling 121.61 kilometres were held at Changshengqiao, Mashukou and Dajie, repeating three times. Though there’s no rain today, the roads were still muddy as they were in the mountain areas with less sunshine.

Enjoying a 0.6-second lead after the super sprint a day earlier, Crocker was the first to hit the road. The Australian put up a steady performance winning five of the nine stages, holding a massive lead of one minute and 25 seconds over second-placed Britain ’s David Higgins of Soueast-Motor Wan Yu Rally Team in a Mitsubishi EVO9.

“I was very happy with my performance today,” said Crocker. “My advantage is a great thing for tomorrow’s race, because we don’t have to take any risks. On the gravel track, we did not make any mistakes today. We were pretty steady the whole day.”

Japanese driver Katsuhiko Taguchi of MRF Tyres, Crocker’s strong FIA Asia Cup title contender, pulled out at SS9 due to mechanical problem. Higgins, and defending champion Dean Herridge of the Subaru Rally Team, were involved in an intense battle. Herridge’s change of tyres in the afternoon after the road became drier paid dividends as the Australian won back six seconds in the day’s last stage.

Higgins and Herridge were second and third overall after Saturday’s competition. Standing at fourth, fifth and sixth were Proton R3 Malaysia’s Alister McRae of Britain, Shanghai FCACA Rally’s Jari Ketomaa and Motor Image Racing Team’s Emma Gilmour.

Finland’s Jari Ketomaa of Shanghai FCACA Rally Team, in a Subaru, suffered a flat tyre, after six stages. Another Finnish driver, Jussi Valimaki of Hongyun Honghe Rally Team, in a Mitsubishi EVO9, won the curtain raiser but had a computer problem on the eighth stage on Saturday which caused the engine to stop and cost him eight minutes. Tony Green of New Zealand , driving for the Guangxi Speed One Rally Team in a Mitsubishi EVO9, was the most unfortunate, suffering a flat tyre to slip off the road and then a mechanical failure.

There were mixed fortunes for the Chinese teams in the Group N competition. Li Wei of the Subaru Rally Team put up a normal show on Saturday unaffected by mistakes in the super sprint a day earlier. After his competitors failed to deliver, Li kept steady to stand at 8th place overall and the best among the Chinese.

The Guizhou Bailing Rally Team suffered double unhappiness on Saturday. Liu Caodong, in a Mitsubishi EVO9, had to withdrew after he skidded off the road in the sixth stage, and its Finnish driver, Juha Salo, also withdrew because of a turbo failure. The Guizhou team said the two will still take part in Sunday’s race and will be aiming to win stage points for the team. Guizhou Team’s Wei Hongjie completed Saturday’s races and was the second best among the Chinese racers.

Yongyun Honghe Rally Team’s Xu Jun, in a Mitsubishi EVO9, raced on despite a fracture in his right hand which made him unable to use the hand brake. But Xu displayed his potential and was third best Chinese driver. The fourth best Chinese was Han Han of the Shanghai FCACA Rally Team in a Subaru, despite a flat tyre in the second stage costing him some time.

Only 37 cars out of 79 finished today’s nine stages. Longyou Rally showed its toughness on Saturday.

Tomorrow (Sunday), is the final day with six special stages, totaling 99.09 kilometres at San Menyuan and Hengshan.

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