Rd.6 Rally Japan

Production Car World Rally Championship
26 to 28 October 2007


Kuzaj and Kamada finish on podium after car-breaker

28 October 2007
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A gruelling three-day event on Japan's northernmost isle ended with two of the IMPREZA-running entrants in this year's Rally Japan taking a well-deserved podium after three days of trying. In addition, three more of the four other SUBARU-equipped runners in the P-WRC finished in the points.

The final day of Rally Japan started out under clear skies and slightly warmer temperatures, something of a contrast to the previous two days of this year's event. Crews made their earliest start on Sunday as they headed out to six new stages for the beginning of leg three at 07:03am. Though the skies were blue overhead, the stages themselves were very slippery, and this proved to be the measure of many a competitor on the final day here in Japan.

It was a steady start to the day for most of the IMPREZA-equipped runners in the P-WRC.

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Takuma Kamada maintained 2nd place for most of the third day, a position he had held throughout the majority of leg two as well. Then, two stages from the finish, a brake seal failure scuppered his plans of taking the best result he'd had to date in the Production championship. This problem saw him drop just seconds behind second place, Kamada held on to finish his home event in third, better than his previous an equal best result of fourth - earned on two previous occassions in the Production category.

The man who initially inherited one very valuable position as a result of Kamada's woes was fellow SUBARU runner Leszek Kuzaj, who had been unhappy with his pace notes during the recce, but made corrections at lunchtime and was hoping for better results in the afternoon. The 4-time Polish rally champion is known for being able to pick up the pieces and fight hard to the bitter end, and this event paid off as he took an initial 2nd-place result in style, crossing the line a scant 8.3 seconds in front of Kamada after more than three hours, forty-eight minutes' racing. It's worth noting that on the last stage alone, Kuzaj suffered a diff problem, a small spin, and then a minor accident-yet maintained his position to the end. Remarkable!

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Next up, and occupying fourth place in the final results' tables is the bright young Russian driver Evegeniy Vertunov, in another IMPREZA. He held on to the position all day despite the hard-charging Mark Higgins trying to steal the place from behind. Throughout the afternoon, he had no problems, was happy with the pace and ran steadily to the end.

A little further down the order, the fast-recovering Patrik Flodin took home three points with his eventual sixth-place result, he and co-driver Maria Andersson keeping things steady right until the end.

Out of the points, but in no way out of the title fight, local competitor Toshihiro Arai battled on to a 10th-place finish in what was clearly his least fortunate result on his home event in the four years it's been run so far. His title hopes remain very much alive though he's not scheduled to run in either of the season's final two events.

Away from the headlights of the title fight, Spyros Pavlides continued to thoroughly enjoy himself over the course of the third leg of competition here in Japan, even setting ninth-quickest time through the final run of the Obihiro Superspecial spectator stage, marking a time just two tenths slower than Vertunov. He held station in 14th place with a steady drive throughout the third day of competition.

George Donaldson

STI Group N Project General Manager:
Copyright © STI 
"It's been an incredible rally for all the Group N entrants; and to come away with two cars on the podium after all the action and disappointment we've seen this weekend is a real testament to the strength and competitiveness of the STI car within the world championship. The disappointment of losing our two front runners Patrik Flodin and Toshi Arai was tempered by the fact that we had other runners coming through...

"Takuma Kamada started in a strong position-which could have even ended up with him in the lead, but he wound up with a third place finish.

Leszek Kuzaj managed to keep his nose clean throughout the day, whilst driving with pace notes that he was less than happy with-but showing the steely determination he's famous for. Of course, on our home event we'd be much happier to see one of our own drivers occupying the centre position of the podium, but let's not detract from the fact that our drivers have given their best on this great event, and that the car has shown itself once again to be totally competitive and totally capable of performing at the leading edge of the Production World Rally Championship.

"We're now looking forward to the very bumpy and new tarmac of Rally Ireland, and the possibilty that on that event - although in absentia-Toshi could very well become world champion - for the second time."

The inaugural running of Rally Ireland takes place in three weeks' time in what is the first cross-border event on the 2007 calendar. The Service Park is located in Sligo in the Irish Republic, while Rally HQ will be at Stormont, in Northern Ireland.

Pos Driver Car Name Time   Diff  
1 Gabriel POZZO Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3:45:50.6 0.0
2 Leszek KUZAJ SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 3:48:30.7 +2:40.1
3 Takuma KAMADA SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 3:48:39.0 +2:48.4
4 Evgeniy VERTUNOV SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 3:50:41.7 +4:51.1
5 Mark HIGGINS Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3:51:23.3 +5:32.7
6 Patrik FLODIN SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 3:58:39.6 +12:49.0
7 Juho HÄNNINEN Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 4:03:12.4 +17:21.8
8 Yoshio IKEMACHI SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 4:03:48.7 +17:58.1
9 Amjad FARRAH Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 4:05:23.4 +19:32.8
10 Toshihiro ARAI SUBARU IMPREZA WRX STI 4:08:03.3 +22:12.7