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Subaru rally driver Cody Crocker has dominated the opening day of Rally Hokkaido to take a commanding one minute twenty second buffer into the final day of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship round.

The Victorian produced a faultless drive in his new MotorImage Subaru Impreza WRX to finish the day well clear of the Mitsubishi of Japan’s Katsu Taguchi to hold outright honours and take the maximum APRC points on offer.

Hiroshi Yanagasawa, also in a Mitsubishi Lancer, is in third place another 52.6 seconds further back, while Crocker’s team mate, New Zealander Emma Gilmore, is fourth, three minutes 11.9 seconds off the lead.

Crocker and co-driver Ben Atkinson were superb on a day designed to test both car and driver, setting the fastest time on 7 of the 11 stages contested. The roads were extremely tough, and by the third pass on some of the stages late in the afternoon, the ruts were enormous and any mistake was severely punished.

Early in the day Taguchi had been on the pace, pushing Crocker across the opening seven stages. But the local driver had a puncture on SS8 and dropped nearly a minute, leaving Crocker clearly out in the lead.

Earlier, established Japanese rally driver, Toshi Arai, who had been expected to challenge for outright honours, also fell by the wayside.

While Crocker knows the same fate can fall his way tomorrow, he also knows that he can now blend caution where required with his normal strategy of attack.

 â€œIt really was an amazing day,” Crocker said. “The roads were really fast and early on we were in a real battle with Taguchi.

“We went out hard on the first forest stage. We wanted to attack from the start as we knew Taguchi would be quick here at his home event. We set the pace straightaway and we were able to hold the lead right across the day.

“It was a really tough day. I’m wiped out tonight. There were over 160 kilometres and a lot of really long stages, so it was a fantastic day of rallying but very draining. “We got the three bonus points for winning day one and we’d like to get those again on day three, to go with the ten for winning the round.

“We’ll see how it goes. We’d like to beat Taguchi again tomorrow, but there is no point getting into a dogfight. We can hold back from taking too many risks and still finish up with 15 points for the round.”

It is another early start for the field tomorrow as they get set to tackle a further eight stages over 60 competitive kilometres.

Day One - Rally Hokkaido, Japan

1 *C Crocker/B Atkinson, Subaru Impreza WRX STI

2 *KTaguchi/M Stacey, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, +1 min 20.3 secs

3 *H Yanagasawa/Y Nakahara, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, +2:12.9

4 *E Gilmour/R Smyth, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +3:13.1

5 N Katsuta/ S Adachi, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +5:09.0 * APRC registered drivers

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