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Asia leg of APRC starts in Malaysia this weekend

 

Four rounds down, three to go and now the 2006 Asia Pacific Rally Championship race starts to heat up with the next two events in South East Asia - Malaysia and Indonesia.

Four rounds down, three to go and now the 2006 Asia Pacific Rally Championship race starts to heat up with the next two events in South East Asia - Malaysia and Indonesia.

Temperatures in the mid-thirties with 95% humidity make Malaysia Rally one of the toughest events to compete in. Dehydration is a major factor for the crews as the temperature in the rally cars often exceeds 50 degrees C, therefore the event requires a high level of fitness and lots of replacements fluids. Based in Johor Baru on the Southern tip of Malaysia, it is only one hours drive from Singapore making it one of the biggest motorsport events on the calendar for Singapore, as well as Malaysia. With most of the roads through Palm Oil or Rubber plantations the roads are relatively smooth and easy to drive - but as soon as they are dampened by the monsoon rainstorms, they're as slippery as ice - and worse - often there are patches with lots of grip and then the next corner there is none!!

LWR Subaru Team
Cody Crocker from Australia has done a fantastic job so far, winning the APRC category in each of the three events he's entered - Australia, New Zealand and Japan. But now the Subaru driver gets into unknown territory - the next events are totally new to Crocker while for his major Mitsubishi rivals Katsu Taguchi (Japan) and Rifat Sungkar (Indonesia) Malaysia is like a second home, with both drivers competing regularly in the Malaysian National Rally championship. However Crocker and the LWR Subaru team have one big advantage over their rivals - they have an 18 point lead in the driver championship and that means even if one his rivals scores a maximum 16 points in Malaysia and Crocker scores none, he would still lead the championship at the finish. Therefore all the Australian ace has to do is finish - preferably on the podium and he will retain a healthy margin without risking his championship aspirations.

MRF Mitsubishi Team
And for Taguchi and Sungkar - this is it, they have to win to have any chance of catching Crocker for the championship. If the conditions stay hot and dry they will have very little advantage over the their Subaru rivals, but should the rains come and the roads turn to mud tracks the experienced Mitsubishi teams should shine. After Japan Taguchi was looking forward to Malaysia. "Our new car (Mitsubishi Evo 9) is about 90% developed and will get better and better with each event. I know Malaysia very well and I hope to win'. For Indonesian driver Sungkar, this is his first year at APRC level and after missing Hokkaido is now 21 points adrift of championship leader Crocker, but if he can beat the Australian in Malaysia he will carry that into a serious advantage as the next rally is his home event - Rally of Indonesia, rough and hot!!

While the battle for the lead will be interesting, there are several drivers that may spring a surprise or two . Finnish driver Jarkko Miettinen as had a shocker of a season so far, but his pace improved towards the end of Rally Hokkaido and since then the MRF Mitsubishi driver won outright Round 2 of the Chinese Rally Championship - against some very hot European competition. This will have done Miettinens's confidence a world of good, but reality is that he has no hope of taking the championship and the best thing he can do is help his MRF Mitsubishi team-mate Taguchi, by taking points off their rivals.

Cusco Subaru driver Hiroshi Yanagisawa was 2nd in APRC at Hokkaido and should be on the pace in Malaysia, although again this is new territory for him too. Crockers young team-mate Eli Evans is getting better and better with each event and he should easily finish in the points. Two drivers with a lot of experience in Malaysia are kiwis's Brian Green and Dermott Malley. Green was Malaysian Champion in 2004 and Malley always finishes well here. Indonesian driver Subhan Aksa is no stranger to the hot conditions and Fan Fan from China drove well in Malaysia last year.

The event begins with a ceremonial start on Friday night (18th August) in Teluk Danga, Johor Baru with the real action starting saturday morning. After two days of rallying the finish is scheduled for 3.00pm Sunday back in Teluk Danga.

Further information on the event see: www.malaysiarally.com

Brian Young


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