May 27, 2011
MUHAMMAD RAFIQ IS THE MAN TO BEAT
27 May 2011, KANGAR - Muhammad Rafiq Udhaya sits pretty at the top of the heap when the cast of 28 drivers lined up for the start of the second round of the Malaysian Rally Championship 2011 in Kangar on Saturday.
But actually Muhammad Rafiq, the defending champion, is not in pole position.
Rather he is lying second overall but because China's Fan Fan, the man who won the opening leg in Kota Tinggi last month is not here because of his visa problem, the Kuala Lumpur based driver has assumed the leading role.
Muhammad Rafiq and his co-driver Sean Gregory behind the wheels of a Subaru Impreza has 11 points. Fan Fan and partner Fang Junwei has 13 and should things go right for Muhammad Rafiq in Kangar, he can look forward to taking a giant step towards retaining his overall title.
Starting third overall is Japanese driver Aji Kim and Noriko Takeshita in a Proton Satria Neo on seven points and then come the two Malaysians, Mohd Shazly Ilias and Kenneth Koh on five and four points respectively.
The big names, like Malaysia's Karamjit Singh, a 11-time overall winner; Japan's Katsu Taguchi, a former world rally participant and the Australian one-time No 1 Cody Crocker are all languishing far behind and Kangar is a real test of their resolve to stay in the championship hunt.
"I know if I stick to my original plan, that is to prepare my car well and drive to the best of my ability, things will work out fine for me. I admit that I am no superior to people like Karamjit and Taguchi but in rally a little luck and the reliability of the car matters a lot.
"And never discount Karamjit or Taguchi. They are very talented drivers and have the experience to take on anybody in the competition," said Muhammad Rafiq.
Which begs the question of whether karamjit and his co-driver Vivek Ponnusamy of the Pennzoil GSR Team can steer their Mitsubishi Evo to a rousing finish in Kangar.
Kota Tinggi was a disaster for the pair and best forgotten as they look towards Kangar.
"The reality is that I need a podium finish in Kangar to stay alive in the chase for the overall championship title. With two more rounds left after Kangar, I need the points now.”
"But I am a fighter. I don't intend to finish last for sure and I don’t intend to finish second either," added Karamjit.