The fourth round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), the Malaysian Rally, is set to get away tomorrow in one of the toughest and hottest rallies on the calendar.
Piloting a Team MRF Skoda Fabia S2000, Swedish driver Pontus Tidemand goes into the weekend with a healthy APRC Championship lead over team-mate Gaurav Gill. Although Tidemand admits his first visit to Malaysia won’t be easy with temperatures of around 35 degrees, with 95 per cent humidity; something both he and co-driver Emi Axelsson aren’t familiar with.
“The heat will definitely be our worst enemy during the weekend” explained Pontus, “it is nice for a day on the beach, but when you are not used to these temperatures and you are also trapped in a car with a lot at stake, the challenges you usually face at a rally becomes even bigger.
“But the will to succeed is there and it will be fun to challenge myself and push my own limits. It becomes even more exciting now that you compete just as much with yourself as you do with your actual competitors.”
Gill and co-driver Glenn Macneall come into this event with plenty of confidence over their team-mate, after winning the Malaysian Rally last year.
“I have a lot of experience of this event, and that gives me confidence to achieve a good result,” said Gill, who will also be fighting for the Asia Cup win which starts this weekend in Malaysia.
The Skoda duo will also be up against 2005 APRC Champion, Jussi Valimaki of Finland, and New Zealand young gun, Michael Young.
Valimaki makes his return to the APRC in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, with Young and co-driver Malcolm Read in a Cusco Racing Subaru Impreza.
Young said: “There are so many massive challenges in Malaysia but the extreme heat and temperatures in the car is one of the main ones. At the moment it’s winter where I’m living so it’s always a big shock to the system arriving in Malaysia where it’s nice and warm. The heat is perfect for a holiday but not so much when you’re driving a rally car.
“The roads are also tough and are very tight and twisty. The slower speeds means there is no air coming into the car and it makes it hard to concentrate. There are also deep ditches that line the road which are easy to slip in to but hard to get out of, plus there are palm oil trees that are everywhere.”
Other entrants include Japanese drivers Genki Takeuchi, Hitoshi Takayama and Kazuhiro Hayashi. Takeuchi and Takayama will both be competing in Subaru Impreza’s while Hayashi competes in a locally-manufactured Proton Satria Neo.
Dinesh Deheragoda of Sri Lanka also returns to compete in his second Malaysian Rally with his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10.
The Malaysian Rally has been part of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship since its inception as a regional rally championship in 1988. Malaysia has had its own rally heroes including 2001 WRC Production Cup and 2001-2002 APRC Champion Karamjit Singh, also known as “The Flying Sikh”. Malaysian car manufacturer Proton has been actively involved in the championship too, winning the manufacturers trophy in 2011.
The Malaysian Rally begins with a ceremonial start tonight at the Angsana Complex in Johor Bahru before teams compete across 14 closed special stages, totalling 226.56 kilometres, at the palm oil plantations around Kota Tinggi over Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th August 2015.