Subaru impressive

On his first visit to Indonesia, Colin McRae adapted to the unusual humidity and took an early lead in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship

Whenever a group of organisers get together to link their different international events into a championship series, it's not long before the FIA steps in, claims it as its own and applies its own rules. It happened in Africa and it has now happened in the Far East, where the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship is attracting much attention from Paris.

A couple of decades ago, Japanese cars were not considered serious machines by the regular and successful rally teams of Europe but, just as that nation moved quickly after the second world war from imitators to improvers and then to initiators, so Japanese cars have stormed ahead to dominate world-class rallying.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, even though the rally teams of successful Japanese manufacturers are actually based in Europe, that a series of events in the Far East should attract their interest.

Rallying has caught on in Japan as much as anywhere, and when a series includes events in Indonesia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Australia, China and Thailand, it was natural that the nation would take notice, especially as Japan itself can never host such an event. The FIA also took notice, and there is now yet another row brewing over a proposal from Paris that those teams planning to contest the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship should register in advance and follow rules and restrictions similar to those which plague the World Championship...The outcome is likely to be yet another storm in what should be a calm, honest and sporting teacup.

Other Far Eastern manufacturers have now followed those of Japan into rallying, the newcomers considering that their regional championship is as important to them, if not more so, that the world series, Indeed, the makes contesting the event included Subaru, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Ford and Hyundai.

Mitsubishi Lancers were driven by Kenneth Eriksson/Staffan Parmander and Tommi Makinen/Seppo Harjanne, whilst earlier versions were in the hands of Kenjiro Shinozuka/Fred Gocentas and Michael Lieu/Eldo Osawa. Two of the three Subaru lmprezas were driven by Colin McRae/Derek Ringer and Possum Bourne/Tony Sircombe, whilst the third was in the hands of Chinese driver Nu Ling Jun.

Yoshio Fujimoto and Hakaru Ichino drove a Toyota Celica Turbo, whilst among the works Escorts having a shakedown prior to the New Zealand Rally was one driven by Ari Vatanen/Fabrizia Pons, part of the exercise being to test a new centre differential under competition conditions.

Based at Medan, on the north-east coast of Sumatra, the Rally of Indonesia is noted for its heat and humidity, and this year was no exception. Much of the stage distance was over the tracks through rubber and other plantations. These roads are normally fairly smooth, but heavy rain in the weeks before the start had caused much rutting, and there were loose rocks all over the Place.

The Ford venture didn't last long, for Vatanen stopped after just two stages when fan failure caused cylinder head gasket failure. However, the team wanted to continue its differential testing, so, after a new engine was fitted, Vatanen continued, with the organisers' blessing, his Escort running as an opening car. Alas, even this didn't last the distance, for the car's gearbox gave up two stages from the end.

Another to go out on the first day was Fujimoto. Having broken a halfshaft on the first stage, he rolled on the second. He struggled on with just rear-wheel drive for a couple more stages, but he eventually had to call it a day when his water temperature rose above danger level.

Bourne was not without problems, finishing one stage minus his left front wheel after a strut broke up. He lost much time and dropped to sixth place. For a short time, Eriksson led, but he was soon overhauled by McRae, his Subaru having been cured of an understeering tendency which perplexed the Scot in the early stages. Makinen fell back when his front differential broke and he was left with just rear-wheel-drive.

At the end of the day. McRae led from Eriksson by 11s, whilst Makinen was another 3m 5s behind. The next day the gap widened when Eriksson's front differential stopped working and he was left with rearwheel drive only until the evening. He also collected a puncture on the last stage, finishing on a complete flat as his tyres were not foam-filled. McRae had his second halfshaft failure later in the day, but it cost him no more than a handful of seconds.

Makinen had been suffering with stomach pains since the start of the rally and it was quite remarkable that he was able to set fastest times in spite of the severe discomfort. At the end of the day, McRae's lead over Eriksson was 2m 15s. Makinen, despite his pain, was third, another 1m 55s back, whilst Bourne had clawed his way up to fourth place, 4m 5s ahead of Shinozuka.

On the last day, McRae took things easily, and although it appeared that Eriksson was closing on the Scot, it was only because the latter had chosen to take no risks, especially on the rough roads, His advantage was cemented when Eriksson was again left with just rear-wheel drive and had to complete the day in that state. Makinen had the same trouble, caused by differential failure, but he nevertheless managed to keep his third place. For a team to have so many unexpected transmission problems and yet finish in the top three was quite remarkable, but the advantage in this Asia-Pacific opener was taken by Subaru, which leads the series with 56 points to Mitsubishi's 54.

Rally of Indonesia – July 7-9 1995

1: Colin McRae / Derek Ringer – Subaru Impreza 555, GpA
2: Kenneth Eriksson / Staffan Parmander – Mitsubishi Lancer Ev3, GpA
3: Tommi Makinen / Seppo Harjanne – Mitsubishi Lancer Ev3, GpA
4: Possum Bourne / Tony Sircome – Subaru Impreza 555, GpA
5: Kenjiro Shinozuka / Fred Gocentas – Mitsubishi Lancer Ev3, GpA
6: MP Hutomo / JP Jeffrey – Subaru Impreza 555, GpA