Subaru rally driver Cody Crocker takes on the International Rally of Whangarei in New Zealand this weekend, hoping another win will take him to the lead of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship after three of the scheduled seven rounds.

Crocker has only contested one of the first two events of the series, missing New Caledonia before winning the Rally of Canberra in May.

The two-time series champion is now in third place on the points table behind his old Subaru team mate, Dean Herridge, who has collected points from both rallies.

Herridge currently leads the way on 21 points from New Caledonia winner Katsuhiko Taguchi on 18, with Cody Crocker third with 16 points, the maximum possible haul for Canberra.

Crocker, driving for the Singapore-based MotorImage team, is expecting a strong challenge again from Herridge, also in an Impreza WRX STI, and the Mitsubishi of Taguchi, but is confident of a strong result on a course he knows well.

The stages, north of Auckland, were all used by Rally New Zealand before the World Rally Championship action moved south to Hamilton.

Crocker says that he and co-driver Ben Atkinson need no new notes for the event, and will use the recce just to further refine those they have and identify the best places to attack.

The 32-year-old has developed an impressive Asia-Pacific Championship record since winning the 2003 Rally of Canberra. He has recorded 12 outright victories in the 16 events contested, and would dearly like to build on that record this weekend.

“We’re going into this event feeling extremely comfortable, but certainly not complacent,” Crocker said.

“Testing went extremely well this week. The roads are very fast here so we’ve stiffened the car up a bit and have it exactly to my liking.

“The key to the rally is getting the two 36 kilometre stages on day one right. This rally is always testing, but if we’ve done the work on our notes we’ll know when to push.

“I’ll be working very hard through the second half of those long stages. I think that is when others can drop off, because to have two stages well over 30 kilometres is very unusual these days and a lot of people won’t be used to that.

“I think that Taguchi has proven in New Caledonia and on the second day in Canberra that he has a good package this year and he will be tough to beat. Deano (Herridge) is so consistent you just can’t afford to give him a break either.

“Sweeping the roads on the first group of stages each morning is always tough, but we’re used to that. It is probably most difficult here and in Japan, but that’s what comes from being first seed, and we’re very happy to hold that honour,” he added.

Recent rains mean stages are likely to still be wet for the weekend, which may help Crocker with his road position.

Saturday sees teams tackle eight stages across 160 competitive kilometres. Sunday’s action is considerably shorter with just 96 competitive kilometres across seven stages.

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