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Australian rally driver Cody Crocker is looking to keep his perfect Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) record alive when he tackles Rally Hokkaido this weekend, driving the Subaru Impreza WRX STI entered by the Singapore-based MotorImage team.

After winning three-consecutive Australian championships, Crocker turned his attention to the APRC last year and has now claimed eight titles from eight starts in that series, including Rotorua (New Zealand) and Canberra (Australia) earlier this year.

But the 35-year-old Victorian knows that Japan will be his biggest challenge yet, as he faces championship rival and local driver Katsu Taguchi on his home soil.

While victory in Japan would be sweet, Crocker knows that he must leave with at least a solid points result to protect the eight point buffer he has over his nearest contenders.

With four rounds remaining, Crocker has 32 points, the maximum points on offer from his first two events. Taguchi and Jussi Valimaki both have 24 points and India’s Narem Kumar is fourth with 14.

“It’s going to take a smart drive this weekend,” Crocker said. “Winning isn’t out of the question, but it will be about putting in a good clean run, keeping the pressure on across the weekend and seeing how the others respond.”

“Being first on the road here in Japan is hard because there’s a lot of loose gravel you have to sweep, and the course really suits the Mitsubishi because there area lot of straights and it favours pure top-end speed.”

“Plus it’s Katsu’s home event. And while it is not technically a home event for Valimaki, it is for his team, and that always helps.”

“But it’s a pressure game as well, and the expectations on Katsu in particular will be pretty big.  So we’ll go out, hopefully stay out of trouble, and see how it all unfolds.”

“The car prepared by MotorImage and Possum Bourne Motorsport is fantastic.  We’ll not play with the set-up much at all. Conditions will be very similar to New Zealand, so we know what to go with and what to expect.”

Crocker will again be joined by co-driver Ben Atkinson and MotorImage teammate, Indonesian Rifat Sungkar, for the event.

Rally Hokkaido gets underway on Saturday morning, with the first stage due to start at 7:53am (8:53 AEST). The event concludes on Sunday around 3pm (4pm AEST) after 16 stages and 232.42 competitive kilometres.
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