The major surprise to come out of Rally Malaysia was the forced retirement of Katsu Taguchi and Jussi Valimaki in the MRF Lancers. Valimaki had reported possible gearbox problems at the end of day 1, but the team was unable to fully examine the fault during service.
However the problem became crystal clear during Sundays first stage, Valimaki’s rear differential failing and forcing him to retire at the end of the test. And things went from bad to worse, with Taguchi suffering the same problem on the very next stage.
(The third MRF Lance of Gaurav Gill suffered a broken short shaft in the front differential, which the team fixed during first service).
During the event team boss Lane Heenan suggested the rear diffs may have reached the end of their normal operating life.
But with the cars back at the Race Torque Engineering workshop, the team has investigated the matter further, and the mystery has deepened. Broken teeth were discovered in both rear diffs, which ultimately put Taguchi and Valimaki out of the rally.
What isn’t apparent is why the teeth broke. After checking the team records, Heenan confirmed to APRC Live that neither rear differential was out of ‘life’, nor were they from the same batch.
Heenan and his team will continue to investigate problem, and both cars will be repaired and ready for Rally Indonesia. But unless the source of the problem can be found in time, both Valimaki and Taguchi will be hoping it doesn’t raise its head again in the heat and dust of Sulawesi.