Japanese driver Kenjiro Shinozuka, co-driven by Fred Gocentas, holds fourth in the second Team Petronas Mitsubishi Ralliart Lancer Evolution III after a careful first day over the hot dusty tracks through palm oil plantations north of Kuala Lumpur.
Fortyeight cars started from Kuala Lumpur this morning to tackle nine special stages covering 111 km in an first leg overall route of 329 km. Ten stages had been planned originally, but the second, the longest of the event at 25 km, was cancelled two days before the start for safety reasons. Temperatures soared to 43 degrees Celsius in the searing sunshine and this, combined with the roughest, driest and dustiest conditions ever witnessed in this event made it one of the toughest so far this year. Nevertheless, 36 cars managed to make it back to Kuala Lumpur for the first overnight halt.
Burns was delighted with his second place at the end of the leg. After retiring on the first two rounds of the Asia-Pacific series, despite promising performances, he drove with extreme caution over the first leg in Malaysia while he re-acquainted himself with the Lancer. "I haven't completed much distance in this car in competition, so I spent the first day getting used to the Lancer. Although the stages were rough, the Lancer was very good in these conditions so it was no problem for me. Plus the Michelin tyres worked very well and we had good support from the Michelin technicians, which gave me confidence. I will get quicker as the rally goes on."
Shinozuka was also happy with his fourth place, despite some difficulty with the transmission system. "I had only two-wheel drive for the last five stages, so it was hard to set good stage times. Otherwise the car was working very well, and my Yokohama tyres were perfect for the conditions," he commented.
Team Petronas Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Manager Phil Short revealed: "Shinozuka's transmission was replaced at the final service this evening, as was Richard's as a precautionary measure. Otherwise both Lancers were is good shape after a very hard day. I am delighted with both drivers' performances, and Richard is particularly calm and relaxed, despite the pressure he is under to score points here."
In Group N, the class for standard production cars, Mitsubishi enjoyed considerable success with Japanese driver Yoshihiro Kataoka comfortable in first place in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III, followed by Proton Wira driver Katsuhiko Taguchi. Favourite for the category, local driver Karamjit Singh, dropped to third in his Proton with electrical problems half way through the leg after leading initially.
The Petronas Rally Malaysia restarts tomorrow morning from Kuala Lumpur at 07:00 for the longest day of the event, featuring 13 special stages covering 190 km in a total distance of 440 km. The surviving competitors are due to finish the second leg back in Kuala Lumpur at around 20:20.
|1.K. Eriksson-S. Parmander||S/S||Subaru Impreza 555||01.21.01|
|GB/GB||Mitsubishi Lancer Evol. III||+0.50|
|3.P. Liatti-F. Ponz||I/I||Subaru Impreza 555||+2.46|
|J/AUS||Mitsubishi Lancer Evol. III||+5.59|
|J/J||Mitsubishi Lancer Evol. III||+7.40|
|AUS/AUS||Mitsubishi Lancer Evol. III||+7.57|
|7.N. Tajima-J. Sukosi||J/T||Suzuki Swift||+10.14|
|8.P. Bourne-C. Vincent||RI/RI||Subaru Impreza||+10.30|