Toshihiro Arai got first time lucky when he emerged the overall winner in the Malaysian Rally 2005 (MR5) in Kota Tinggi, Johor. Japan’s Arai, with New Zealand’s Tony Sircombe as his co-driver, registered a total time of 3 hours 40.46 seconds over the two legs, leaving second-placed Malaysian combination Kan Chee Hong and Bernard Chin three minutes and 52 seconds behind.
Arai said he had suffered an attack of nausea on Saturday, which was a terrible day for the Sanden Subaru team, when a gearbox problem which needed replacements at the second service, incurred a 1.20 minute time penalty for the crew. “It was a tough rally for me as I felt very sick and almost died. So, I am very satisfied and very happy to have won,” Arai said in the post-rally press conference.
Kan and Bernard fought hard to keep second spot from slipping into the hands of a resurgent Geoff Argyle and Jane Black. The battle in the end saw the gap between the two at just 13 seconds.
Indonesia Rally Team’s Rifat Sungkar and Anthony Sarwono finished fourth in their Proton PERT 4WD Turbo, six minutes in front of New Zealand’s father and son crew of Dermott and Patrick Malley. Tough conditions affected further by rain saw just 10 of the 25 starters completing both legs of the rally. Arai and Sircombe’s victory also meant that for the third year running the Malaysian Rally title has not been won by a local.
New Zealand’s Brian Green and Fleur Pedersen, who won the previous two Malaysian Rallies, in 2003 and 2004, were out of competition after a crash in Leg 1 on Saturday, which saw their Mitsubishi Evolution 8 having too much damage to continue. It was a drastic change in fortunes for Green and Pedersen, who won MR3 and MR4 in a Subaru Impreza, but the switch to a Mitsubishi seemed to have brought the winning streak away from them.
By finishing second in the MR5, Kan and Bernard also won their first Malaysian Rally Championship (MRC) title of the year. MR5 was also run as Round Five of the MRC for the local contestants. It was a healthy improvement for Kan and Bernard, who began this year as part of new Chinese team Wan Yu Rally Team and have began a serious development plan looking at achieving better results next year. For that, Wan Yu Rally Team has planned campaigns in the MRC, the Chinese National Rally Championship and several rounds of the APRC. Kan and Bernard’s result in Kota Tinggi, were the best for the team yet.
Second in the MRC category was Rifat and Anthony. Rifat cutting Saladin Mazlan’s lead in the championship to just 11 points. Saladin and Arish, who had planned to attack for leg points after mechanical problems in Leg 1, discovered the same glitches with the centre differential in their Subaru Impreza before the start of Leg 2 on Sunday, and opted out to not risk further damage.
The MR5 is organised by the AAM and Perlis Motorsports Club and promoted by Wheel Sport Management. The event is jointly supported by the Johor State Government and MERU Utama Sdn Bhd. Sanctioned by the International Automobile Federation (FIA), this will be the first time the APRC makes a return to Malaysia since the year 2000.