Proton and MRF confirmed for Malaysian Rally

A host of big names are expected at the opening round of the 2011 Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) which forms part of the 2011 Malaysian Rally championship (MRC) to be run off at the Plaza Angsana Johor Bahru and Tai Tak Estate in Kota Tinggi from April 1st until 3rd. For the first time ever, a short 2km special stage has been created in the Plaza Angsana area (next to Menara Hasil) as part of the organiser’s wish to inject more awareness towards rallying to the public.

Heading the list is Japan’s defending champion Katsu Taguchi who will be racing under the MRF banner and the runner-up, team mate Guarav Gill of India as the duo made it a 1-2 finish over the six-round championship which saw the participants raced in Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, New Caledonia, Japan and China. Malaysia’s challenge at the APRC will be spearheaded by the reigning MRC 2010 overall winner, Muhammad Rafiq Udhaya and his co-driver Sean Gregory in their Subaru Impreza and the Pennzoil GSR team of Gunaseelan Rajoo and Jagdev Singh with a Suzuki Swift Sport in the 2WD category. Japan’s Yuya Sumiyama who won the China leg of the APRC last year, is also confirmed for the Malaysian leg of the championship under the Cusco banner.

The Malaysian car manufacturer Proton, will also be represented with their Proton R3 team with Scotsman Alister McRae and Chris Atkinson putting up their challenge behind the wheels of their Proton Satria Neo S2000. The Proton R3 team had an encouraging start to their APRC debut last year but a series of mishaps in the later stages in the dirt and gravel of the Tai Tak Estate cost the team dearly. But as Clerk of the Course Tengku Shaharin Abu Bakar said, a bit of luck is always needed in rallying, and the Proton Team is hoping for lots of it this time around.

But as the APRC title chase looks competitive, the hunt for the MRC overall title is just as intense. There is Muhammad Rafiq and there is also Karamjit Singh of the GSR Pennzoil team, who finished second overall last year. Karamjit in a Mitsubish Lancer and Muhammad Rafiq were locked in a fight to the finish over the four rounds of the MRC but a series of mishaps along the way, killed off his hopes of landing the crown. The two will continue from where they left off last year and over the four rounds this year, starting in Kota Tinggi and then Chuping, Perlis in June; Malacca in October and Negeri Sembilan in November, it will be interesting to see who wins the battle this time.

The promoter of the mr11, Wheel Sport Management Sdn. Bhd., has also lined up a series of events to support the championship. Among them is the 3 days Mini-Carnival from 1st of April at the Plaza Angsana Johor Baru, which will include a concert featuring some local artistes; an exhibition of rally car accessories and the highlights of the weekend is the daily Special stage race in town before the race continues in the vicinity of Tai Tak plantations in Kota Tinggi.

As of printing time, a total of 19 cars from as far as the UK are taking part in the championship and according to Tengku Shaharin, the list is very encouraging. “With the help and co-operation from the Johor State government and Johor Tourism Dept., we are confident that the event will be a success and help promote Johor on the world tourism map,” said Tengku Shaharin.