Japan - home to Asia's finest car manufacturers - is set to witness Rally Hokkaido, the second leg of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship in the sleepy town of Obihiro.
The two-day event starting on Saturday may have attracted major Japanese car companies like Toyota, Suzuki, Nissan, Mitsu bishi, Honda and Subaru, but it's the Malaysian Proton Satria Neo S2000 cars which are expected to be the cynosure of all eyes.
Handled by Alister McRae and Chris Atkinson, the two cars have the edge in terms of driving talent. Both are former World Rally Championship drivers and given the slushy, snowy conditions of the 18-stage, 220.97km Rally Hokkaido, experience will play a crucial role. The unpredictable precipitation will also compound matters.
However, India's Team MRF isn't far behind. Delhi driver Gaurav Gill, who clocked the fastest times in three consecutive stages in the pervious rally in Malaysia, said: "They definitely are at an advantageous position, despite the fact that we have a powerful engine." The MRF team also alluded to lighter parts being used by the Proton team, which allow them a better power to weight ratio.
Another unnerving part for the MRF team is the fact that they have installed a fresh set of shock absorbers, which have not been fully tested under competition conditions. These will have to be tweaked and adjusted during the event itself.
The other MRF driver and Gill's competitor, Katsuhiko Taguchi isn't worried. With years of experience behind him he plans to take it easy. "I plan to cover the lost time (on account of new suspension) in the later rounds. By then the loose gravel on the tracks too would have settled," said the current APRC leader.