Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) 2010 Round 1 at Kota Tinggi, Johor – A Few Conclusions

Ahead of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) Round 2 at Hokkaido, Japan this weekend, we look back at the opening round of the APRC at Kota Tinggi, Johor.

After 4 days of pursuing rally cars between the Special Stages (SS) and the service centre back and forth, it wouldn’t do justice to our readers if we didn’t write a summary of the event in a nutshell. So, here’s a few conclusions from the event :

Is there light at the end of the tunnel for the Flying Sikh?

1) The Flying Sikh is still flying, he just needs a new wings.

3 times APRC champions Karamjit Singh, piloting his old and trusty Lancer Evo 8, is still the best rally driver Malaysia have ever produced. Despite a drivetrain problem on Day 1, after some quick repairs he managed to continue on Day 2 and win a stage with a car that was well below its peak performance, beating the likes Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae in the Proton Neo S2000 and the Evo X of Katsu Taguchi and Gaurav Gill. When his steering column broke and forced him to stop on SS13, he must be wondering of what might have been if he had a better tool at his disposal. Lack of sponsors, yes, but surely not a lack of talent. The Flying Sikh is still going at it, attacking every bends and corners aggressively, one the most enjoyable to watch.

Look, it’s a helicopter! Karamjit (yellow cap) doesn’t seem too bothered.

2) Rallying is the most spectator friendly motorsports event, ever!

No barriers, no guardrails, nothing! Only a few meters away from the action. This is as close as you can get to the car. The opportunity to witness the action upclose and personal, is what separates watching rally events from the others. Who needs media pass anyway? Media accreditation won’t give you any special access, except maybe the podium and the press conference. Or maybe 4 days of free accommodation in a 5 star hotel. But that’s a different story altogether. Bottom line is, rally spectators are spoilt for choices. They can choose any spot they want, without paying tickets or anything whatsoever. Dangerous? Yes. But motorsports are dangerous, the risk will always be there and it is up to the spectators to behave in a proper way.

3) It’s either hot and humid (above) or heavy rains and thunder storm (below).

At first the umbrellas were up because it’s too hot, and the heat from the sun is unbearable. Minutes later, in a very stark contrast, the umbrellas stayed up because the heavens opened up and it rained heavily without any warning. Running as a sweeper wasn’t so bad after all for Katsu Taguchi, because soon after that it rains heavily and the slippery road made it impossible to set a competitive time, just like Gaurav Gill (below) found out later. Running first or last doesn’t matter that much as far as the unpredictable weather is concerned. Sometimes, luck can play a crucial part, especially when it comes to the weather.

The Proton Neo S2000 is fast, but fragile. But there’s still a long way to go before the championship ends, so it’ll take a brave man to bet against them.

It’s hot! Atkinson could barely opens his eyes in the searing heat.

4) The new boys are still coming to grips with rallying in this part of the world.

One of the most challenging aspect of rallying is adapting to the different types of surfaces and their surroundings as fast as possible. Unlike track racing, where the differences are more about the track layout and the level of grips available on the surface which are very subtle, in rallying you’ve got gravel, asphalt, dirt, snow and such. And the differences from one country to another are worlds apart, literally. While Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae are no slouch, their inexperience of rallying in this part of the region played to the hands of the more seasoned campaigners like Katsu Taguchi, Gaurav Gill and Rifat Sungkar. While the Proton Neo S2000 clearly have the pace to challenge for the win, it’s the tiny bits here and there that enabled Taguchi, Gaurav and Rifat to finish the rally ahead of them. Next year should be a cracker, because Atkinson and McRae (below) will be back with a vengeance after they’ve got a little bit more experience from this year’s rally!

5) The cliche of to finish first, first you have to finish.

To finish first, first you have to finish. How many times have we heard that cliche before and how so true it is. Taguchi (below) always have been very fast here in the past, but after failing to finish so many times he’s due some good fortune, and deservedly clinched victory with a brilliant performance and consistency.

6) Motorsport is not the most popular form of entertainment in this region.

Despite all the efforts from the organizers, most people are unaware about the local motorsports scene. Entertainment industry usually takes center stage, and people are more interested in watching reality tv show instead. The headlines are mostly centered around celebrities as they grabbed all the limelight, so these weekend warriors are left to become just another unsung heroes. This scenario turned sponsors away from the sport, making it more and more difficult for the competitors to survive the economical crisis onslaught. It is not just a problem here, as it is a global phenomena, with teams coming in and going out yearly. Watch this space.

Although there are some media presence, the event was not given the kind of exposure it deserves.

7) Everything looks spectacular in rallying.

No kidding! The way the cars went sideways through the corners and blazed its way through the course, throwing everything in its wake, be it mud, water, dirt, pebbles or what not, rallying has every ingredients that makes for a spectacular feat.

Have you ever been to a rallying event before? You might want to ask yourself this question. Some people dismissed it without ever giving it a chance. But, it’s unfair to judge it without really seeing it live. You should give yourself a chance, and if after watching it with own eyes decided that it was not for you, than fair enough.

APRC Round 2 Rally of Hokkaido will resume from the 21st until the 23rd of May 2010. Meanwhile, relive back some of the moments from Round 1 through these photos below. Enjoy!

Related posts:

APRC Round 1 - Flag Off Ceremony
APRC Round 1 - Day One Morning Session
APRC Round 1 - Day One Afternoon Session
Wallpapers - The Satria Neo S2000
APRC Round 1 - Day 2 Morning Session
Malaysian Rally Championship Round 1 at Johor - Rafiq Udhaya Victorious
Malaysian Rally Championship Round 2 – The Rally Spirit
Malaysian Rally Championship Round 4 : Karamjit Clinches Victory, Rafiq Grabs Overall Title
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