With the first round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship to commence on Saturday, heavy rainfall is one thing most drivers are worried about. The southernmost town of Malaysia has been extremely sunny and hot during the early part of the day, with temperatures reaching 35 degrees Celsius. And, the unexpected rains this time around have made the outcome of the rally quite unpredictable.
Twenty-five drivers will start on Saturday amidst threats of rain in the Kota Tinggi plantation special stages, in the north-east of Johor Bahru. The rally will comprise 16 stages with a total competitive distance of 236.4 kms. The longest stage is 24.25 kms.
Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae of Proton Satria Neo S2000 looked comfortable and confident on the eve of the rally. "This is the first time Proton is fielding two teams," Atkinson said. "The stages are tricky and the weather looks interesting. We will have to push hard for the result."
Britain's McRae, in the other Proton team, said that the car's development all season and at the end of the year should help them gain an early advantage. "Along with the dry runs, I had prayed for some wet ones as well. Now I'm not happy that my prayers have been answered," he chuckled.
For Indian driver Gaurav Gill, it will be his fourth attempt in Malaysia as he looks forward to finishing the rally. Driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, Gaurav said, "The rains will make the track slippery and the conditions treacherous. But I'm just hoping to drive safe and fast and secure a finish this time around."
With the GSR Penzoill racing team using an older car (a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII), driver Jagdev Singh will be counting on the weather to even things out. "Everyone is complaining about the rain. But I'm hoping it rains so we can have a chance. Otherwise, we are on the back-foot," the Malaysian explained.