NAREN KUMAR / JEFF JUDD
KATSUHIKO TAGUCHI / MARK STACEY
JUSSI VALIMAKI / JARKKO KALLIOLEPO
Just to make it to the finish of the APRC Malaysian Rally is an
accomplishment and Naren Kumar (India) in the Team Rally India
Mitsubishi proved that getting a good result in these conditions
is all about determination and consistency. Kumar bought his Mitsubishi
Evolution IX homein 2nd place, followed by New Zealander and team-mate
Brian Green in a similar car.
The Malaysian Rally has always been one of the toughest on the Asia
Pacific Rally Championship calendar - and this year proved one
of the hardest with three of the top contenders not finishing including
former champions Katsu Taguchi (Japan) and Jussi Valimaki (Finland).
Weather was again a major factor, the extreme heat and humidity again
causing problems for the competitors, but at least this is predictable
and crews can train and prepare for it. The sudden tropical downpours
are not so easy to predict and especially when they can be very
localized - pouring millions of litres onto one area, while a few
hundreds away it will be bone dry, making tyre choice a real lottery
for the crews.
The first leg was just such a challenge with heavy rain at the mid-day
service and for the afternoon stages the choice used by the competitors
was as consistent as the weather - some driver opting for complete mud
tyre, while other went for the dry weather option.
The final stage of the day proved the most difficult and slippery
with all driver complaining they made the wrong tyre choice, whether
they were on muds or dries. At the final service Mitsubishi cars
were in 2nd, 3rd and 4th and leading Mitsubishi competitor was Katsu
Taguchi in the MRF Tyres team.
"Very tough rally today, temperatures very hot and road conditions
changed quickly, so not so easy. The last 2 stages were 70% in the
wet and we used mud tyre, but still not could make good time, I
dont know why - but very difficult to have complete confidence
in those conditions".
After a fast start Jussi Valiamki also in an MRF Tyres Mitsubishi was
disappointed to be 3rd, "We were leading the rally after the first two
stages, but unfortunately we made a mistake during our recce and for
stage 3 we had no pace notes, we lost over 1-minute. We tried hard to
make up the time in the afternoon but in the muddy conditions our
mud tyres didnt seem to be of any benefit - it was very, very
slippery. Tomorrow stages should suit us better."
Unfortunately both MRF Tyres Team cars were out of the event early
the next morning with identical rear differential problems. Moving
into 2nd spot was Kumar, whos consistency throughout the year finally
paid off with a spot on the podium "We drove pretty hard right through
without making any mistakes and just hanging in there. We knew that
2nd and 3rd for us was going to be difficult, but then suddenly
the MRF teams bad luck, was our good fortune, fantastic result for us"
Brian Green felt fortunate to finish, let alone stand on the podium
"In the 2nd stage this morning we ran off the road into a drain
and got stuck. Some-how we managed to get going again and at the
end of the stage found ourselves in 5th with the MRF team out,
then two guys in front both had problems, one with puncture and another
with a crash - suddenly were up to 3rd ".
In 4th place was sole remaining MRF Tyres Team driver Gaurav Gill from
India a great result for the young Indian, who started the APRC in
round 1 but crashed out early in the event. Gill drove firmly with a
finish as a priority and 4th in APRC was just reward especially in