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Success and drama for Kiwis in Japan rally

The recent Rally Hokkaido in Japan delivered success and drama for the two New Zealand drivers, experienced Brian Green and teenager Michael Young, who contested the 2012 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) event.

Palmerston North’s Brian Green, with his long-time co-driver Fleur Pedersen of Havelock North alongside, came through the challenging two day event third among the APRC-registered competitors behind Japanese driver Yuya Sumiyama and New Caledonian Daniel Palau.

After Rally Hokkaido, which ran 15 and 16 September around the city of Obihiro on Hokkaido island in northern Japan, Green is now second overall in the APRC standings behind Australian Chris Atkinson who was busy at Wales Rally GB in a Mini and didn’t contest the Japanese event for his APRC team, MRF Skoda.

In the APRC Junior Cup field, Young, from Opotiki, with his Tasmanian co-driver Daniel Willson started well, but crashed out of the event on the first day. The teenager couldn’t avoid getting snarled by a wet, slippery corner that caught out at least four other competitors, all of whom ended up in the same ditch with Young’s Proton rolling forward onto its roof on top of the other cars.

Green and Pedersen had their own challenges getting to the end of the notoriously rough event. A puncture on the first day took over eight minutes to fix after their MRU Motorsports-prepared Subaru Impreza WRX fell off the jack twice.

“Then the jack broke, and we were very lucky to even get the spare wheel on!” said Pedersen.

Green added: “We were just getting started again, when I saw Mike Young coming up behind, so I pulled over and let him go. He owes me a beer for that one!”

With 94 championship points to Atkinson’s 126, Green has every chance to win the APRC title at the final round in China late in October. He commented: “Earlier in the rally I thought it was all over, but we managed to get back to third of the APRC-registered drivers and second in the points. We had a good run on Sunday, it was very, very rough and very corrugated which you expect here when you have multiple passes of stages.

“But we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the team’s worked well, so here we are,” said Green who has enjoyed more than 40 years of competitive rallying. “After we saw Gaurav Gill retire, we backed off a bit to preserve the car and make sure we got maximum points. In rallying anything can happen and often does, so we're going to China to give the championship our best shot.”

Young started the four rounds of the 2012 APRC Junior Cup – his first full season of rallying – in strong form, winning the New Zealand and Australian rounds. After crashing in Malaysia, the 19-year-old moved to Perth to improve his income stream which largely goes toward funding his fledging yet promising international rallying career.

Young and Willson started well in Japan, winning the Junior Cup category on five of the first day’s six stages and also beating the acknowledged two-wheel-drive master Malaysia's Karamjit Singh on three stages. Sadly, the sixth stage proved Young’s undoing.

He said: “I don’t know whether it was just bad luck or I didn’t anticipate how wet it was going to be. We started our line over toward the left to be ready for the next corner, but that was the side which was extremely wet. Tried to turn, just kept going straight and that was it basically, we went over into the ditch and into more cars.”

Young has driven a Cusco-backed 2WD Proton Satria Neo rally car this season and reports many positive conversations and discussions about his plans for next year when he hopes to continue with Cusco.

Young’s Cusco Proton team-mate Akira Bamba, from Japan, won the APRC Junior Cup, securing victory on his home event.

The final round of the APRC Championship for Green is Rally China held on 26-28 October 2012.