The fourth round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), held in Malaysia, has proven to an extremely tough rally after only one day of competition, with almost every driver in the series succumbing to the tough conditions through mechanical failures or off road excursions.
Early rally leader, Gaurav Gill in a Team MRF Skoda Fabia S2000, was forced into retirement in stage four, after the front of his car made contact with a bank, damaging it so severely he could not continue.
Although Gill hopes to re-join the rally tomorrow, his team-mate Esapekka Lappi, is unlikely re-join after his engine had a major malfunction and overheating issues near the end of stage four.
Following the two Skoda’s retirements, Indian driver Sanjay Takale, took advantage of their misfortune, but temporarily retired in stage five, after a fan belt failure. “I’m very disappointed,” said Takale, “we weren’t pushing too hard but there was nothing we could do about it. We hope to fix the problem and come back tomorrow.”
The problems faced by other crews now leaves Kiwi duo Michael Young and Malcolm Read in their Cusco Toyota Vitz, leading the Asia Pacific event.
“We are absolutely stoked. It’s been a good day for us and the Cusco Toyota has been perfect all day. Our goal was just to finish the rally, so we’ll apply the same strategy we had today for tomorrow,” said Young.
Meanwhile, the Asia Cup event is also shaping up to be a great battle but it is last year’s Asia Cup winner, Yuya Sumiyama in his Subaru Impreza from Japan, who leads his compatriot, Shuhei Muta also in a Subaru Impreza, by over a minute.
Rounding out the Asia Cup podium by a mere 10 seconds is Chaiyan Longton piloting a Suzuki Swift who sits just ahead of fellow two-wheel-drive competitor, Michael Young.
Hiroshi Asakura, another two-wheel-drive contender, also retired after getting stuck in a road-side ditch two kilometres into the first stage of the day. He eventually recovered and got back on the road but was too late to feature in results, as per the rules in place by rally organisers.
The final place in the Asia Cup battle is filled by Japanese driver, Tomohide Hasegawa in a Mitsubishi Evolution, who haemorrhaged time after a turbo failure and limped through the rest of the day’s tricky stages.
“We just take it easy and try to make it to the finish,” said Hasegawa’s co-driver, Osamu Yoda before the start of the final stage of the day.
The Malaysian Rally continues tomorrow around the plantations north of Johor Bahru. Crews will compete across seven special stages covering 81.82 kilometres before finishing at the Angsana Complex at approximately 3.00pm.