20th V-RALLY International Japanese Alpine Rally, Final Leg Sunday, 20 October 2002 555 Subaru World Rally Team driver Toshi Arai and co-driver Tony Sircombe have won the two-day 20th V-RALLY International Japanese Alpine Rally, which finished...
20th V-RALLY International Japanese Alpine Rally, Final Leg
Sunday, 20 October 2002
555 Subaru World Rally Team driver Toshi Arai and co-driver Tony Sircombe have won the two-day 20th V-RALLY International Japanese Alpine Rally, which finished today in the resort of Karuizawa. Storming through to clinch all twelve stage wins, the dynamic duo put in an exceptional performance in their Impreza WRC 2002 to take their second consecutive victory at this event and finish 4 minutes 54.7 seconds ahead of second-placed Subaru driver Possum Bourne.
Today's action started at 0500hrs when the remaining 30 competitors travelled north of the host town of Karuizawa to contest the final 12 stages and a further 65.64 competitive which were based around a central service park at Kita Karuizawa. Weather conditions were miserable from the outset and continuous rain made driving conditions on the twisty mountain roads treacherous.
Subaru driver, Toshi Arai once again took control and put in a faultless performance to charge through the day's stages and claim his second consecutive overall victory. Driving in his Impreza WRC2002, which had been set-up to cope with the day's hazardous conditions, his win was supported by seven-time Australian Rally Champion Possum Bourne, who drove superbly in a Group A Subaru Impreza to finish second and complete an impressive Subaru top one, two.
Despite limited experience of competing in a pure asphalt rally event, Bourne set consistently good times throughout the day and finished a full 3 minutes 48.4 seconds ahead of Fumio Nutahara, who came home third to take the final podium position. The next three positions with all taken by Japanese drivers with Yujiro Nishio, fourth; Norihko Katsuta, who had been in overnight seventh, fifth; and Hiroshi Yanagisawa sixth.
Following Taguchi's retirement yesterday, today's leg claimed the crew of Douglas Gore and co-driver Mark Nelson who had been running fourth overall. The Jamaican Rally Champion left the road on stage 18, dropped into a ravine and was forced into retirement.
The 20th V-RALLY International Japanese Alpine Rally, which ran to the Super Rally Format, has been praised for its high level of organisation. Already a candidate event for next year's FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, the 555 Subaru World Rally Team Sporting Director, George Donaldson, has also suggested that it is worthy of observation for a future round of the World Rally Championship.
Toshi Arai: "The rally is much, much better than last year and the route is tougher. Winning the Alpine Rally for the second consecutive year is great, and to be honest I was concentrating hard to make sure I didn't make a foolish mistake that would force us into retirement. Leg one was very narrow and twisty with long stages by Japanese standards, so it's quite difficult to keep the concentration, but I am glad to have reached the finish with a top position."
Paul Howarth, 555 Subaru World Rally Team Manager: "We're delighted that Toshi has secured his second victory here. He drove with great maturity, especially on Leg two which was hampered by very poor weather conditions. This victory will definitely put Toshi in a very good frame of mind for his next Group N challenge in Australia next month. Both Toshi and Tony are delighted with this result, the car and team were faultless throughout the event and Toshi has certainly demonstrated that he is one of the most proficient Japanese drivers."
George Donaldson, 555 Subaru World Rally Team Sporting Director: "We're obviously delighted with Toshi's victory, especially on home ground for Subaru. Although the challenge from Possum didn't materialise and Katsu (Taguchi) retired before showing his true form, a win is never easy and Toshi still had a tough job to do. I'm stunned by the organisation of the event. The Alpine Rally is well established with a long history, and that clearly shows in the depth of understanding and infrastructure. The safety, marshalling, everything, is worthy of observation for a World Championship rally and I'm looking forward to coming back for a future round of the World Rally Championship."
<pre> Final Leaderboard Toshihiro Arai/Tony Sircombe Subaru Impreza WRC2002 2:20:55.2 Possum Bourne/Mark Stacey Subaru Impreza WRX + 4:54.7 Fumio Nutahara/Satoshi Hayashi Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (GpN) + 8:43.1 Yujiro Nishio/Akirako Yamaguchi Subaru Impreza + 9:35.9 Norihiko Katsuta/Mitsuhiko Hiruta Subaru Impreza + 9:44.1 Hiroshi Yanagisawa/Tadashi Misaizu Subaru Impreza + 9:54.0