Malaysian Rally lived up to its reputation, hot and humid and plenty of action from the very first stage.
Stage 1 claimed two competitors, New Zealander Mike Young’s event came to an abrupt halt when he hit a bank half-way through the stage and Jussi Valimaki who flew all the way from Finland to compete, ended his rally prematurely when his car suffered overheating problems at the end of stage 1.
The MRF Skoda’s were immediately on the pace with team-mates Gaurav Gill (India) and Pontus Tidemand (Sweden), scrapping over fastest times. Both ran into problems in the morning stages, Gill stopping to remove grass from the radiators, allowing Tidemand past, only for the Swede to suffer the same fate. When they arrived back at mid-day service the gap was 35 seconds, with Tidemand in the lead.
Tidemand extended the gap in the afternoon to 1 minute and 20 seconds, when Gill had to stop to remove the front bumper that had got dislodged in a small dip in the road.
“The (engine) temperature went up and we had to stop and remove the whole front bumper and so we lost nearly a whole minute there. In the last two stages we managed to pull back 30 seconds or more. So tomorrow we keep pushing and we’ve got a better road position with more gravel than grass”, said Gill at final service.
Tidemand was just happy to be back in the service-park after one of the most challenging days of his rally career “It’s been really tough, the first two stages after lunch were quite good, but after that it got very hot
for me, the dampers and tyres. I’m going to remember this day for the rest of my life, it’s such a big challenge, with the heat it’s so easy to loose concentration and so easy to make any mistake. I’m really happy to be here and looking forward to tomorrow, not such long stages”.
China’s Fan Fan had a good start to his rally in the morning as he was sitting in the top 3 but dropped time on the final stage of the day SS8, when his Soueast Motor Mitsubishi Lancer develops mysterious problems. He ends the day in 3rd 13 minutes behind Gaurav Gill.
There’s a great battle between Japanese Subaru Impreza drivers Genki Takeuchi and Hitoshi Takayama, just 10 second separating them at the end of day 1. Takayama was lucky to start the event after his Subaru had a major engine problem in Shakedown and only an all nighter by his crew got the car repaired in time.
Nearly retiring from the rally due to heat exhaustion, Sri Lankan Dinesh Deheragoda finished the day in 6th placed. He plans to have a long bath once he gets back to the hotel. And the only Fwd car in the rally, Japanese Kazuhiro Hayashi drove the wheels off his Proton Satria Neo to end the rally in 7 the place 35 minutes behind Dinesh.
The Malaysian Rally 2015 resumes very early Sunday morning, the surviving competitors will do another 6 stages with a total distance of 246km..