ALISTER TAKES THE LEAD HALFWAY THROUGH THE MALAYSIAN LEG OF THE ASIA PACIFIC RALLY
Johor Bahru - Alister McRae is headed for a grandstand finish as he takes the lead midway through the Malaysian leg of the Asia Pacific Rally championship at the Tai Tak Estate in Kota Tinggi.
The fear of heavy rain, which the weathermen had predicted, didn't really come true and
the 39-year old Alister with his co-driver Bill Hayes steered their Proton Satria Neo S2000 to take a 27 second lead going to into the final round on Sunday.
Driving under the Proton R3 Malaysia banner, Alister never really looked back, taking
the opening stage in convincing style and went on to finish strongly with Japan's Katsu Taguchi lying second overall.
Alister and his co-driver Bill Hayes clocked a total time of 2hrs 4 minutes and 16.9 secs while Taguchi, in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, is still very much in the fight with India's Guarav Gill in a similar vehicle, lying third.
"I guess things worked out well for us. We know it's going to be a tricky venue and rain could make it worse. But the weather held even though it rained a little towards the end," said Alister. But by then he was home and dry and the rest will have some catching up to do on Sunday.
"Katsu is an experienced competitor and he has a reliable car. And in rallying, you can never take things for granted. There is a still a long way to go and hopefully I can keep my lead," said Alister.
But things aren’t looking good for his Proton R3 teamates, Chris Atkinson of Australia and Stephane Prevot of Belgium, no thanks to an electrical failure early in the race which needed seventeen minutes to get it repaired.
"We lost some precious times and it would be difficult to make up for the deficit. Obviously it's too big a gap to make up, but sometimes the unexpected can happen." said Atkinson.
On a day when only six out of the ten cars which started finished the race, Atkinson and company is lying sixth, a position not helped by the time penalty imposed on him for the time needed to get his car moving again.
But it wasn't just Atkinson who had suffered. Malaysia's hope Karamjit Singh and his Mitsubishi Evo VIII had to retire early, no thanks to a mechanical problem barely two kilometres into the opening stage which forced him out of the race.
"I am very disappointed at what happened today. Both of us were looking forward to a great race and a great finish. But now things looked so uncertain. I can get the car fixed but I won't know how the car will respond tomorrow," said the 48-year old Karamjit who is driving under the GSR Pennzoil banner.
In fact Karamjit, the former World rally production car champion, never had the best of preparation for the championship. All along he had complained of the need to replace certain parts, especially the breaks and the gear box to keep his car competitive with an 11th Malaysian Rally title uppermost on his mind.
So Malaysia's hopes are now pinned on the shoulders of Muhammad Rafiq Udhaya and his Subaru Impreza after he finished today 5th overall.