A combination of brain and brawn dictated the results in the Rally Hokkaido, the third round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, on September 12-14. For Team MRF Tyres, it was a few anxious moments spent before Armin Kremer and co-driver Fred Berssen of Germany delivered a first place finish in Group N (unmodified) and second overall behind Geof Argyle (cod river Steve Smith) of New Zealand who were in a Group A (modified) car. Last year, Stuart Warren, along with co-driver J.Judd had won the Group N category for Team MRF in the Hokkaido Rally 2002,Japan. The conditions for the event were made extremely difficult and tricky that put premium more on caution than aggression. The pull out of Doppelreiter in the final stages due to gearbox problems meant that Team MRF looked to Kremer to bring home the honours. And typically, the German champion did not let his mates down.
As in Canberra, where Kremer won the overall crown, and Rotorua, he paced himself well and kept his composure even as favourite Fumio Nutahara, the Japanese ace, set scorching pace to jump into a handsome lead until a broken suspension on Day Two ruled him out of contention. Right through, Kremer, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7, kept his focus on finishing the event with the conditions marred by a mix of rains, fog and bright sunshine. The terrain, rendered slushy, made it difficult to keep the vehicle on the track. Under the circumstances, Kremer performed well to keep himself in the reckoning. As in the previous rounds, the specially developed MRF tyres played a major role in helping Kremer through the tricky route as he fought hard to catch up with Argyle.