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Cody Crocker’s goal of adding an Asia-Pacific Championship title to his three Australian titles remains on track after the opening day of Rally Hokkaido, the fourth event of the series.

Crocker, driving the Les Walkden prepared Subaru Impreza WRX STI, sits in second place outright, but is the first of the Asia-Pacific entered drivers after eight stages across 135 competitive kilometres.

The Japanese driver, Toshi Arai leads the rally one minutes 7.7 seconds clear of the Australian, with another local driver, Takuma Kamada, third 2.3 seconds further back.

Importantly Crocker is 47.3 seconds clear of his closest Championship rival, Hiroshi Yanagisawa.

It was a big day for Subaru in its home event, with the fastest four cars all carrying the Japanese company’s marque.

Crocker was delighted with his performance, which saw him collect three bonus points as the first APRC competitor home for the day, but is keenly aware that another eight stages remain tomorrow.

“We just had to focus on our job, which was to build our championship points,” Crocker said.

“Arai and Kamada were in their own little battle, on the road about 20 minutes behind us, so we just had to settle on a pace that felt right for us and didn’t involve too many risks.”

“It was tough second time over the stages this afternoon because the roads were really rough, but we didn’t really have any trouble.”

“If we can maintain our pace and consistency tomorrow, we’ll walk away from here with maximum points, which is very clearly our goal.”

Eli Evans had a good day, barring a puncture on the short fourth special stage.  The young Victorian finished in seventh place outright and fifth among the APRC competitors.

“We just had to have a rock solid day today, and we did,” said Evans.

“It was just great being out there. The crowds were right behind all the Subarus and we had a ball.  We’re pretty much were we wanted to be at the end of day one, and now we just have to maintain this form tomorrow.”

Crocker had a solid morning across the four stages before lunch. Kamada, Arai and the Australian were clearly in a class of their own as they consistently finished in the top three on each stage, the two Japanese sharing two stages wins apiece.

Conditions throughout the day saw overcast skies and mild temperatures, but no sign of rain. More of the same is expected tomorrow.

Let Two of Rally Hokkaido is has just 85.66 competitive kilometres across a further eight stages.

Rally Hokkaido, Leg One, Saturday July 8, 2006 (Provisional)

1 T Arai (J), T Sircombe (NZ), Subaru Impreza WRX STI, 1:28:58.3
2 *C Crocker (Aus), B Atkinson (Aus), Subaru Impreza WRX STI, 1:30:06.1
3  T Kamada (J), H Ichino (J), Subaru Impreza WRX STI, 1:30:08.3
4 *H Yanagisawa (J), T Misaizu (J), Subaru Impreza WRX STI, 1:30:53.3
5 *K Taguchi (J), M Stacey (Aus), Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, 1:31:21.6
6 *J Miettinen (Fin), L Malley (Fin), Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, 1:32:02.7
7 *E Evans (Aus), M McAdam (Aus), Subaru Impreza WRX STI, 1:32:12.8

* = Asia-Pacific Rally Championship competitor

Asia Pacific Championship points after Rally Rotorua (Event 3 of 7)

1 C Crocker (Australia), Subaru, 32
2 R Sungkar (Indonesia), Mitsubishi, 27
3 K Taguchi (Japan), Mitsubishi, 23
4 E Evans, (Australia), Subaru 13
=5 D Malley (NZ), Subaru, 11
=5 F Fan, China, Mitsubishi, 11
7 H Yangisawa, Japan, 7

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