Sumiyama of Pertamina Cusco Racing testing their car
31 March 2011, JOHOR BAHRU - The days ahead at the Malaysian Rally 2011 which kick starts in Johor Bahru on Friday, look exciting.
A crowd of big names in rallying are gathered for the opening leg of the Asia Pacific Rallying Championship (APRC) and also the first round of the Malaysian Championship.
There is Australia's Cody Crocker, the four time APRC overall winner driving under the GSR Pennzoil Team in a Subaru Impreza.
There is Katsu Taguchi of Japan, the defending champion of the Malaysian leg of the APRC in his Mitsubishi Evo XI and there is the pride of Proton, the Malaysia car manufacturer, represented by Alister MacRae in the Proton Neo 2000.
Muhammad Rafiq Udhaya, the defending Malaysian Rally champion in his Subaru Impreza is just as eager to defend his title and so is Karamjit Singh in a new Mitsubishi Evo , who is ready to make up for his loss last season.
The action starts on Friday with a Special Stage Race over a 2.5km purpose built track at the Plaza Angsana before the real race begins at the Tai Tak Estate in Kota Tinggi over the weekend.
"We did a trial run over the circuit at the Tai Tak Estate and it is a challenging one. I just cannot wait for the race to begin. "Rallying is full of surprises and challenges. You never know what lies ahead and lies next," said Karamjit of the GSR Pennzoil team who finished second last season.
The threat of Saladin Mazlan who is making a return to rallying after a one-year absence, is seen as a challenge Muhammad Rafiq and Karamjit cannot ignore.
Saladin came in second to Karamjit overall in the 2009 season in a Proton Satria but sponsorship issue and his love for polo has prompted him to take a break last year.
"But watch out for him. He is a talented driver," said his GSR Pennzoil Team leader Gunaseelan Rajoo.
A total of 35 entries from nine countries including China, India, Australia and New Zealand, making it one of the largest gatherings of rally entries in Malaysian soil, confirmed for the championship.
Chris Atkinson of Proton Motorsports stirs up a trail of dust during the shakedown at Angsana Complex