Suzuki driver Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima has won the 2002 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship 2-litre cup title, despite crashing out on the final day of the final event in Thailand.
The Suzuki Sport driver only needed to drive his Suzuki Ignis Super 1600 over the start ramp of the event to be assured of victory in the Cup, but made an excellent start in his effort to end the championship with a strong result.
10th overall and the first two-wheel-drive car in the field after the rally's opening day, Tajima improved further to sixth overall at the end of day two.
"The car was going very well, even though the mixture of rough and more slippery smooth conditions has not been ideal for a two-wheel-drive machine," said Tajima, whose Suzuki Sport company is contracted to undertake Suzuki's motor racing activities.
Unfortunately, Tajima's rally ended early on the third and final leg, just 200 metres into the second special stage, when he drove over a nasty drop in the road a little too quickly. The Suzuki Ignis flew through the air, crashed down heavily on its nose, and the front suspension was damaged in the impact.
Even if the car had been able to continue, Tajima himself was in no fit state to do so: he had injured his back in the heavy landing, and left the stage in an ambulance. Fortunately, while very sore, he was cleared after a precautionary medical check up, and returned to the team hotel to recuperate.
"It was very disappointing to retire in this way, especially as we were more than seven minutes ahead of our nearest two-wheel-drive rivals at the time," said Tajima. "Even so, we can look back proudly at our achievements this year, successfully defending the Asia-Pacific 2-litre Cup, and showing the potential of the Suzuki Ignis Super 1600 in the series."
"I would like to thank all of those people who have supported us and followed our progress throughout the year."
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