The 1999 Asia Pacific Rally Championship begins this coming weekend (13 – 15 March) with the 11th International Rally of Thailand. The event has moved from its traditional base in Phrae to the historic and now tourist city of Chiangmai in north Thailand, where a combination of mountain and jungle roads will challenge the local and international entries. Top of the list is last year’s winner Japanese driver Yoshiro Kataoka in the ‘Team Advan Ralliart’ Group A Mitsubishi Lancer.
Kataoka’s main competition will come from Karamjit Singh from Malaysia in a locally run and sponsored Ford Escort Cosworth. Singh is the reigning Thailand rally champion and will be driving for the same Caltex sponsored Ford team as last year. With plenty of wins to his name and local knowledge to help him, Singh will certainly challenge Kataoka’s dominance of the event. Local driver Mitsubishi driver Pornsawan Siriwattanakul has proved over the years he is up to the task and badly wants to win his home international. Other major international drivers include the 1998 Malaysian Open and Group N Rally Championship winner Katsuhiko Taguchi from Japan who will drive a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer and last year’s APRC F2 winner Nobuhiro ‘Monster’ Tajima in his Silverstone Suzuki Baleno.
Leading entries for the ‘Singha’ 11th International Rally of Thailand 1999
1.Team Advan Ralliart, Yoshihiro Kataoaka(J)/Satoshi Hayashi(J), Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 111,A8
2.Caltex Power Racing Team, Karamjit Singh(MAL)/Allen Oh(MAL)Ford Escort RS Cosworth, A8
3.Mitsubishi Ralliart,P ornsawan Sirwattanakul(T)/Pornthep Sukahut(T),Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV,A8
4.Mitsubishi Ralliart Malaysia, Katsuhiko Taguchi(J)/Ron Teoh(MAL),Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 111,N4
5.Silverstone Suzuki Sport Rally Team,Nobuhiro Tajima(J)/Claire Parker(AUS),Suzuki Baleno, A7
Other APRC News
Reigning Asia-Pacific Champion Yoshio Fujimoto is to retire from competition to promote and run younger drivers through his Tein Sport Rally Team. Fujimoto will hand over his ex-works Toyota Corolla to 24-year-old Japanese driver Takuma Kamada who’s first event in the car will be Rally of Canberra. Kamada drove several events in the 1998 APRC and Malaysian championship in a Tein Sport Group N Subaru.
Former Tein Sport driver Shigeyuki Konishi will drive a Subaru GpN Impreza and compete in Rally of New Zealand with the Subaru Rally Team Japan and in Rally of China the STi Club Rally Team.
After the Thailand Rally the next event in the championship is the Rally of Canberra 7-9 May. Australia’s capital city Canberra is a great location for a rally with surrounding pines forests being very close to the city and providing fast flowing roads. This years event sees the addition of the EPIC Super Stage, “taking rallying to the people”, with a purpose built, 2 car super special run under lights at an existing arena at Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC). A top manufacturer entry is expected for the event with Mitsubishi represented by Yoshihiro Kataoka and Ed Ordynski, Subaru by Possum Bourne and Toyota by Takuma Kamada and Neil Bates.