Slippery conditions for Rally Malaysia
- 10th October 2008, 9:17am
Heavy rain has made the stages for the Ancom Malaysian Rally 2008 (MR8) very wet and slippery which is proving very challenging for the international drivers who are in Johor Bahru for the Asia Pacific Rally Championship this weekend.
Clerk of the Course for the MR8, Tengku Shaharin Abu Bakar Almarhum Tengku Suleiman said, “We have had a lot of rain over the last few days. In the recce today (Thursday) it was evident that the visiting drivers are finding the conditions challenging. If the wet conditions continue the Stages will be incredibly unpredictable and we could see a lot of cars sliding around or getting stuck in the mud. It is certainly going to be one of the most exciting APRC rounds this year.”
Japanese driver, Katsu Taguchi of the MRF Tyres Rally Team, comes into the rally with a five point lead over Australian, Cody Crocker of the Motor Image Rally Team.
The pressure is on Taguchi to pull off a strong finish in his Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 9 because he won’t be competing in the final APRC round in China in November. Malaysia is his last chance to score points for the championship.
Although Taguchi has experience on Malaysian tracks having lived and competed here in the past, he is still cautious. “I have experience in wet conditions but I prefer dry conditions. Anything can happen when it’s wet,” Taguchi said.
There is also a big fight for third place. CUSCO's Dean Herridge is not in Malaysia which gives his team-mate Hiroshi Yanagisawa a chance to take third place. Just five points behind him is Indonesian Rifat Sungkar, Kiwi Brian Green and Gaurav Gill from India.
The other battle to watch is the Manufacturer’s championship, currently led by Subaru, only one point ahead of Mitsubishi.
This is the fourth year in a row Malaysia is hosting the APRC. The MR8 is the sixth of seven rounds of the FIA regional championship.
Twenty cars will start on Saturday morning in the palm-oil plantations in the vicinity of Bandar Tenggara with drivers from Indonesia, India, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Germany and Malaysia. The official flag-off is at the Zon Hotel tomorrow evening (Friday) at 9pm.
Adding to the excitement of the MR8 is the Pirelli Star Driver competition which will be decided this weekend. The Pirelli Star Driver competition is an initiative by FIA to find five young rally drivers from the 2008 and 2009 FIA regional rally championships and give them a chance to compete in the World Rally Championship (WRC).
One young driver from the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and two from the European region will be offered the chance to contest identical Group N or Super 2000 cars in the WRC. Competitors must be under the age of twenty-seven on first January in the year of the regional rally championship.
In the Asia-Pacific region the Pirelli Star Driver winner will be decided at the MR8. Ten young drivers will attempt to prove their speed and consistency by being the fastest over the most number of Stages.
Half of the competitors are New Zealanders including strong favourite twenty-one year-old Hayden Paddon and fellow countryman, Brad Ayling, twenty-six years.
Indian driver Gaurav Gill is also competing with local co-driver Jagdev Singh by his side. Fresh from a win in the previous APRC round in Indonesia, they proved their ability beating Taguchi and Crocker to first place on the podium.
Local knowledge could give Gill the advantage. He competed in last year’s APRC Malaysian Round and Jagdev has twenty-two years of rallying experience in Malaysia.
Another local looking to secure the chance of a lifetime is twenty-year old James Russell of SR Motorsport. Russell is the only Malaysian driver in the Pirelli Star Competition.
The MR8 doubles as the fifth round of the local Malaysian Rally Championship (MRC) which means local rally drivers and co-drivers will compete side-by-side with the international APRC competitors.
Twenty-five cars are entered including Malaysia’s current rally champion, Karamjit Singh of the GSR Pennzoil Team. Karamjit only needs two points to secure the Overall championship title for the year ahead of Perodua’s Lim Leong Onn.
Karamjit’s teammate and manager, Gunaseelan Rajoo will battle it out with Lim for second place Overall. Although Guna says he is more focused on securing the Team Championship Trophy.
“My first priority is the Team award so I intend to take it easy on the first day to ensure we secure team points,” Guna said.
All rally competitors will complete fourteen Stages totaling 226.74 kilometres over the weekend.
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