Just when Alister McRae thought victory was well within reach, disaster struck which left him wondering why fate had been so unkind to him in the Malaysian Rally 2010 at the Tai Tak Estate in Kota Tinggi.
The 39-year old Scotsman with his Australian co-driver Bill Hayes had gone into the final round of the Malaysian Rally on Sunday as the overnight leader and had a good 27 seconds lead over the second placed, Japan’s Katsu Taguchi and his partner Mark Stacey in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X.
But then the inevitable happened. A nasty bump at the end of Stage 10 with six more to go, left his Proton Satria Neo S2000 with a damaged radiator and he was forced into an early retirement. Taguchi never looked back as he seized the opportunity to coast home to victory in a total time of 3hrs 19min: 07.7secs over the 589km race.
‘Accidents do happen in rallying and it can cost you the race. It has happened to me before. Today is my day I suppose. But to be honest I must admit that Alister has a very fast car and for me to close the gap would have been quite difficult. What’s more all of us have to face up to a very tricky venue with plenty of challenges, especially the condition of the track,’ said the 38-year old Yokohama born Taguchi.
Infact there was no happy ending for the Proton R3 team after all. Things were looking up for them until Alister’s mishap and the problems suffered by their other entrant, Chris Atkinson and Stephane Prevot with their electrical failure to their car.
‘But that’s rallying. You can have a perfect day and then you pray everything will be fine the next. But sometimes it don’t work out that way,’ said Alister.
India’s Guarav Gill and partner Glen Macneall of New Zealand, also in a Mitsubishi EVO X, came in second a good 15 seconds behind the winner. Still their combined effort of a 1-2 finish did their team, MRF Tyres, proud.
Coming in third was Indonesia’s Rifat Sungkar in a Subaru Impreza WRX with Malaysia’s Muhammad Rafiq Udhaya also in a similar vehicle, finishing fourth.
For Muhammad Rafiq, finishing fourth among the international cast has given him tremendous satisfaction. ‘I am a new hand at rallying with only four years of experience and to be the best finisher among the Malaysian entries is a boost to my career. I am looking forward to the Japanese leg of the Asia Pacific Rally in Hokkaido in May and see where I stand,’ said Muhammad Rafiq.
In fact Rafiq’s achievement had overshadowed that of the local favourite Karamjit Singh and his desire to win his 11th All-Malaysian Rally title. But endless problems to his eight year old Mitsubishi Evo VIII, has put paid to his hopes. At least in Kota Tinggi.