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Subaru rally driver Cody Crocker, driving the all-new MotorImage Subaru Impreza WRX STI, has finished the opening day of Rally Queensland as the leading registered driver in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, and in second place outright.

Leading the way in the APRC round was Simon Evans, who completed the seven specials stages 38.8 seconds quicker than Crocker. In third place outright, a further 43.8 seconds back, is the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 of Japan’s Katsu Taguchi, while Eli Evans is fourth in his Subaru Impreza another 32 seconds back after experiencing late troubles.

Indian driver Gaurav Gill is in fifth place, with New Zealander Emma Gilmore sixth, in the second MotorImage Subaru.

Unlike the Evans brothers, Crocker, Taguchi and Gill are all taking part in the six round APRC series, and shared the Championship bonus points on offer in Leg One – three for first, two for second and one for third.

It was a good day for the defending champion, who was debuting the all-new Impreza WRX STI.
“Full credit to Simon today – he was quick, but we were kind of in our own competition and we’re happy with where we are,” Crocker said.

“We are running first on the road and we carry a couple of spares, so our major objective was to take the three bonus points and finish in front of Taguchi and Gill, who we think are our biggest threat in terms of winning four APRC crowns in a row.

“It was really slippery out there, particularly this morning, and this is one of the most technically difficult rallies of the season, so to come though unscathed is good.

“The car performed really well, and that gives us a lot of confidence that it will get even better the more we race it, the longer the season goes.

“We really had no troubles at all, which is a great tribute to the car and the guys that put it together.

“We’ll just go out and try and stay on the road tomorrow. There is no point us going all out to try and catch Simon. We have to be satisfied with our own race as there are another 13 points on offer for us tomorrow, and we’d really love to finish our home event with the maximum 16 points.

“It is a long season, so getting off to a good start, particularly when it is your home event, is vital.”

Crocker started the day well, finishing the opening 12.55 kilometre stage just 1.7 seconds behind Evans. Eli Evans was also quick, just a further 3.1 seconds back, with only 4.8 seconds separating the top three.

Stage two was a gruelling 17.55 kilometre stage and Simon Evans was 7.3 seconds quicker than the reigning APRC champion. But the battles remained intense, with Eli Evans again third fastest on the stage and only 4.4 seconds behind Crocker. One of the drivers expected to play a part in the day was Brendan Reeves. But he lost a wheel and dropped out of contention.

After a visit to the service park, the cars returned to the forest to resume hostilities.

Immediately Simon Evans was back on the pace in his Mitsubishi, extending his lead over Crocker by another 2.6 seconds, now out to 11.6 seconds. Eli Evans actually made back some time, finishing second fastest on the stage, and was now just 15.3 seconds behind his brother.

But it was on the next stage, the 13.92 kilometre stretch knows as Tower Up, that the margins started to spread. Simon Evans set his fourth fastest stage time, and suddenly he had a 19.8 second break over Crocker.

But Eli Evans also dropped away, now 11 seconds behind his fellow Subaru driver. While the pace was still hot, the intensity of the tussle eased slightly. The Japanese driver, Katsu Taguchi, was now fourth, but he was not providing any real challenge to the top three, as long as they kept out of trouble.

The next two stages were true to form, with Simon Evans slightly quicker than Crocker on both. With just the long 33 kilometres stage to go, Evans was up by 25.8 seconds.

Eli Evans then struck trouble on the last stage, opening the way for Taguchi to move up the leader board. Crocker and co-driver Ben Atkinson had a clean run, and arrived back at the Imbil service park ready for another day.

Leg two takes in a further seven stages, suing the same roads as the opening day, but many of the afternoon stages are run in reverse.

Results - End Leg One, APRC Rally Queensland
1 Evans/Evans, Mitsubishi
2 Crocker/Atkinson*, Subaru, +38.8 secs
3 Taguchi/Stacey*, Mitsubishi, +1 min 23.7secs
4 Evans/Murphy, Subaru, +1:55.3
5 Gill/Macneall*, Mitsubishi, +2:57.7
6 Gilmore/Smyth*, Subaru, +5:03.2
* = APRC registered competitor
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