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Team MRF all set for new season

The one thing that strikes you while taking a tour of Canberra is its serenity. Even the trees and leaves seem to be silent.

india Updated: Mar 12, 2006 19:33 IST

The one thing that strikes you while taking a tour of Canberra is its serenity. Even the trees and leaves seem to be silent. Come Saturday, and it will be hectic activity all around as the Subaru Rally of Canberra, the first leg of the Asia Pacific Rally Championships (APRC) 2006, is set to get underway.

For defending champions, Team MRF, their challenge will be spearheaded by Jarkko Miettenen (codriver Mikko Markulla).

"I want to play it safe," said the 28-year-old Miettenen after the official flag off. The Finn, who has won three races on the World Rally Championships (PWRC) in Finland and Sweden) is a bit of an 'unknown quantity' here.

"I do admit that I am an unknown factor as I have never before raced on the APRC. But after a few recce sessions I feel much better," he admits.

Miettenen, who is more adept to snowy and extreme conditions of racing in Finland and Sweden, felt it would be extremely challenging to race in the 'dusty' conditions here. "I have never raced in such dusty conditions and am going to be extremely cautious tomorrow," he says.

He is also aware of the high expectations from him after the success achieved by compatriot Jussi Valimaki last year. "He (Valimaki) had a fantastic year, winning three legs last year. I just hope I can do my best," he says modestly.

Incidentally, Valimaki, after winning in Australia, Thailand and Indonesia last year, is competing at the PWRC this year.

Another experienced campaigner who will be spearheading the MRF challenge is Japan's Katsuhiko Taguchi (co-driver Mark Stacy). "I will be racing without any pressure here," he says with a grin.

Another familiar name Karamjit Singh is not participating here because of lack of sponsorship. The Malaysian of Indian origin, who won the APRC overall title twice (2001 and 2004), could not make it here because he had no sponsor.

The 16-stage rally will cover 240 kms.

First Published: Mar 12, 2006 19:33 IST