The first event after a long break for the Beijing Olympic Games was held in the northernmost part of the China mainland a fortnight ago. Next, the China Rally Championship visited Changbaishan, Jilin, which is a border town near North Korea, for the third round of the series.
Despite the cold weather, the ceremonial start, which began eight o'clock on Friday morning, was crowded with many local spectators.
The first competitive run, the Super Special Stage 1 (1km), was held in the schoolyard of a junior high school adjacent to the place where the ceremonial start took place. It was bitterly cold and snow started to fall just before the start of the SSS 1 even though it was still in September. But the large number of spectators was fascinated with the exciting driving displays by top rally drivers. Among them, a winner in the Production Car World Rally Championship (PWRC), Fumio Nutahara who made an appearance in this CRC round, was outstanding in not only speed but his showy performance.
Not far behind the Japanese ace, the lead driver of Subaru Rally Team China, Dean Herridge, was also fast and spectacular in his driving performance. The SSS 1 was won by Nutahara in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo and Herridge, who was driving the latest Subaru Impreza STi, finished in third. Meanwhile, the drivers of two YOKOHAMA equipped teams in the National Class, Shanghai VW and Yiqi VW, running Polos and Golfs respectively, dominated the upper ranks of the class.
Day 2 started at half past five on Saturday morning. Because of the snowfall the day before, the base of Changbaishan mountain was lightly dusted with snow, although there was no snow remaining in the city of Changbaishan.
All special stages of the day had a length of more than 20km. Combined with a higher than usual average speed, it was widely expected that this might cause some problems. And it became a reality soon after the leg started early morning. The winner of the SSS 1, Nutahara, had a fuel pump failure in the very first stage of Day 2 and lost three minutes. Herridge also had to slow down due to a mechanical problem in the second stage of the day, which caused a 90 second delay. But they performed well afterward on their way to regain most of the lost ground and, as a result, Herridge finished the day in second and Nutahara in fourth.
In the National Class, the reigning champion Wang Rui, driving one of Shanghai VW's Polos and the winner of the previous event, Lui Bin in a Yiqi VW's Golf, contended for the top slot, exchanging their positions time after time. At the end of the long battle of Day 2, Lui Bin was leading the class, followed by Wan Rui in second and his teammate Han Han in third.
There was another twist on Sunday morning. Nutahara was forced to retire due to a problem with his fuel pump that persisted from the previous day. Now only Herridge was left among the YOKOHAMA users aiming at the overall win. Many other cars had to retire from the rally due to the high speed nature of the stages on Day 3 and Li Wei of Subaru Rally Team China was one of the victims. He was running in sixth (second among the Chinese drivers) but went off the course and retired because of a broken suspension part which collapsed as a result of metal fatigue.
At the end of three days of competition which contained 236km of total competitive distance and more than 500km of traveling distance, Herridge secured the second position overall which was his best result of the season with the latest model of the Subaru Impreza. Lui Bin scored a second consecutive victory in the National Class after controlling his pace while watching the stage times of Wang Rui who eventually finished in second. With the third place finish of Han Han, all three places on the podium of the National Class were filled with YOKOHAMA equipped drivers again.
The next round at Longyou, Zhejiang, is being held as a combined event with a round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) and the round after the next one is to be combined with a round of the Intercontinental Rally Series (IRS). The splendid performance of YOKOHAMA shoed Chinese teams can be expected even in competition against the international rally teams and drivers visiting the country.