The sleepy town of Obihiro, where even honking makes people turn in astonishment, is suddenly abuzz with the 'vrooming' of race-car engines. And a look at the screeching tyres on the dirt tracks amidst the lush green vegetable fields and pine-forests tells one that the decibels are going to get higher in the next two days as the Hokkaido leg of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) gets underway on Saturday.
Who stands where
Gaurav Gill and Glen MacNeal are in the third position at the start of this season's penultimate APRC event. But even Indian MRF driver knows that a chance of catching up with table-leaders Proton is "far from being realistic".
"But we are looking for a good finish, which will be vital going into the season ender. And hope we have the same cars as theirs next year," said Gill.
Christopher Atkinson, driving the Proton Satria Neo S2000, leads the board with 109 points - 23 ahead of teammate Alistair McRae who's placed second - and 63 ahead of MRF.
For MRF drivers it'll be a test of tackling the new systems. To give a shot in the power output for the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X cars, MRF has brought in the R4 upgrade kit that reduces the car weight by around 25-30 kg. "We got very little time to test the new setup," said Gill, lamenting the lack of time for providing exposure.
***The writer's trip has been sponsored by MRF.