x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Crocker targets the Kiwis

As the big-name drivers get ready for an intriguing Rally Australia showdown, 12th-placed Cody Crocker - the event's top ranked home driver - will be chasing victory in the Group N classification.

KINGSCLIFF, NSW // As the big-name drivers get ready for an intriguing Rally Australia showdown, 12th-placed Cody Crocker - the event's top ranked home driver - will be chasing victory in the Group N classification today. Crocker, a former domestic champion and a three-time winner of the Asia Pacific Rally series, enters the final leg's eight stages trailing Kiwi pair Hayden Paddon and Richard Mason, as well as Czech driver Martin Prokop. But with 128.48km of competitive stages remaining, and a margin of just 70 seconds separating the quartet, Crocker is determined to rein in his rivals.

"I want to win Group N and it's a fairly achievable target," said Crocker, 37. "If we can push on a little bit I reckon we can make up the ground. "There's a fierce field of competitors out there; a few have had some troubles and are starting to come back, so we've got to keep pushing and try to close the gap." Barring any disasters, Crocker is sure of ending Rally Australia as his country's leading performer. However, the Subaru driver - who competes for Motor Image, the Japanese manufacturer's Singapore-based regional distributor - wants more.

"There's a few Kiwis in front who I'd like to knock off, and Prokop is going very well too. They are definitely targets and I think achievable," said Crocker. With no previous experience of the Tweed and Kyogle Shires stages, Crocker's rally has been one of discovery. "I'm pretty comfortable, but my [pace] notes could be a little better - I need to commit to them a little bit more," he said. The pressure of competing against the backdrop of environmental protesters - a vocal minority intent on spoiling Rally Australia's WRC return - has clearly not dampened Crocker's speed, or sense of humour.

"One fan had a sign saying 'stuff global warming, let's go rallying,' that was pretty good," he joked. emegson@thenational.ae