Bourne takes role of spoiler
POSSUM Bourne came to the territory on the crest of a wave and rode it all the way to Beijing last year as he swept to victory in both the 555 Hong Kong to Beijing Rally and the Asia-Pacific Championship.
This season the affable New Zealander has experienced just how fickle motorsport can be. Far out of contention for the overall title, he now looks to China's premier motoring event to rescue a season better forgotten.
In a further twist of irony, it was the Swede Kenneth Eriksson he had to beat to guarantee himself the overall title for the second year in succession last year.
This time Eriksson, again driving for the Mitsubishi Ralliart Team, will be aiming for the Asia-Pacific title and Bourne's brief from his 555 Subaru World Rally Team is clear - stop Eriksson winning at all costs in order to help Subaru teammate, Scot Colin McRae.
'Last year I came to this event looking to beat Kenneth and secure the Asia-Pacific title for myself. This year I'm having to beat him to make sure my teammate stays in the championship race. I may be out of contention for the title, but the pressure to do well is just as intense,' Bourne said.
Bourne and the rest of the Subaru team must hope that their second driver, Richard Burns, also beats the Swede home because a second place finish would still hand Eriksson the Asia-Pacific title with one round remaining in Thailand.
A clash of dates between the World Rally Championship and the Asia-Pacific forced Eriksson's closest pursuer, McRae, to race in Spain. McRae trails Erikkson by eight points - 63 to 55 - but with 20 points for a win, McRae could still snatch the title in Thailand if the Swede does not finish the Hong Kong to Beijing.
A total of 49 cars are taking part in the event which finishes at the Ming Tombs near Beijing on Friday.