Chris Atkinson is now the man to beat in the Malaysian Rally Championship 2011 over the terrains of the Tai Tak Estate in Kota Tinggi, Johor.

The Australian driver took his Proton Satria Neo across the estimated 150km race yesterday to finish well ahead of the rest to take a firm grip on the Asia Pacific Rally Championship title which he is eyeing.

In fact, he had a flawless race with his Belgium co-driver Stephan Prevot to finish in a time of 2hrs 06:29.4secs with India's Guarav Gill in a Mitsubishi Evo X finishing second in 2hrs 08:09.8 secs.

Third is another Proton entrant, Alister McRae and his co-driver Bill Hayes who clocked 2hrs 15:56.7secs to give the Proton Motorsports Team a headstart as the championship move into the final stage on Sunday.

In fact Atkinson had it so smooth yesterday, winning all seven stages of the race except for the 8th and final stage at the purpose built Plaza Angsana circuit over a 2.5km stretch, in which he was reduced to second place by Gaurav's superb handling.

"I must admit I had a good day. There wasn't much trouble and the car ran smoothly. I hope everything stays the same tomorrow," said Atkinson.

In the race for the overall Malaysian Rally title, China's Fan Fan in a Mitsubishi Evo X leads comfortably with a total time of 2hrs 27:29.0 secs while defending champion Muhammad Rafiq Udhaya behind the wheel of a Subaru Impreza, had to settle for second place with a total time of 2hrs 30:34.3 secs after incurring a time penalty due to a lengthy service when the gearbox on his car needed to be changed and Japanese driver Aji Kim in a Proton Satria Neo was placed third with a total time of 2hrs 36:48.0 secs.

It was a disappointing day for Karamjit Singh, who finished second overall last year after he lost a wheel midway through SS3 and was forced out of the rally.

"That's rallying. I hope things will better tomorrow so that we can make up for today's loss," said the ten-time National Champion.

Over in the A6 category for APRC drivers, Gunaseelan Rajoo of Pennzoil GSR racing team, drove his brand new Proton Satria Neo cautiously to stay out of trouble while maintaining the lead in the category.

“We took it easy because the car is still new to us but I am so far impressed the performance and reliability of this relatively unmodified car.” Said Gunaseelan, who is also the team’s principal.        

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