Cusco 1-2 Malaysia

While there was only four competitors entered at Malaysia’s round of the 2018 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, the International Rally of Johor, the biggest challenge for the teams and drivers was survival.

At the head of the field the Japanese based Cusco team had entered two cars – a Skoda R5 Fabia and a 4WD Toyota Vitz, an AP4 development car.

The team arrived in Malaysia eight days before the event to unpack their container that had been shipped from the last event in Australia, and set to work preparing the two cars.

Cusco podium, Malaysia Rally 2018
The Skoda had survived the rough and rocky Canberra roads very well and just needed regular maintenance, while the Vitz required major repairs to the suspension, the cooling system and a whole new clutch (it had retired on the last stage in Canberra with clutch failure).

The Cusco drivers and co-drivers arrived on Tuesday – Yuya Sumiyama a two-time Asia Cup champion with co-driver Takahiro Yasui, both from Japan.

Yuya Sumiyama, Malaysia Rally 2018
Driving the Cusco Toyota Vitz was New Zealander Mike Young, a Cusco driver since 2011, and his co-driver Malcolm Read.

After two events in the cooler Pacific countries of New Zealand and Australia where the ambient temperatures ranged from five to fifteen degrees, the temperature gauge in Malaysia sat around 34 degrees and 98% humidity.

The roads are a mixture of gravel and clay – a surface that gets as slippery as ice with just a drop of rain.

After the Friday ceremonial start, the crews all headed out on Saturday morning to tackle the plantation tracks. After a day of sun, they were dry and dusty.

All competitors did survive and made it to the end of the rally, leaving everyone with a story to tell. None more so than fourth placed Malaysian, Abdul Kaathir, who’s co-driver Tri Arjuna had to visit the service-park ambulance after suffering from severe dehydration in the first loop of stages. Then near the start of stage 5 the pair crashed down a bank into a watery ditch, luckily not rolling over in the process.

While they were out for the day, their 23-Motors team repaired the 2WD Proton Satria and got them back out on the Sunday stages and on to the finish ramp.

Abhilash PG from India also went off on stage five and into a ditch after struggling with a broken driveshaft. Abhilash’s PGA Motorsports team repaired the damage and got him and co-driver Musa Sherif back in the rally for Sunday and onto the finish podium in third place.

There could have been even bigger problems for Sumiyama on day two, when he went off on stage 9 at a fast left and got stuck 50 metres from the road.

Mike Young, Malaysia Rally 2018
Some hard work in the heat by co-driver Yasui got them out again, but they’d lost over two minutes to team-mate Young – the gap was now only 1 minute and 13 seconds.

With a hint of a win, Young gave chase in the afternoon including winning the final test, but Sumiyama did enough to maintain the gap and bring his Skoda R5 first to the finish-line.

P G Abilash, Malaysia Rally 2018
“I won, but very lucky we could get back to road. Malaysia roads are very difficult but I’m very happy for our Cusco team,” Sumiyama said at the finish.

After multiple DNFs, second place for Young and Read felt like a win.

“This is for the Cusco team and TRD – they have worked so hard to get this point. This finish is for them,” said Young.

The next round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship is Japan’s Rally Hokkaido in September.