Swede dreams

Colin McRae’s run of wins came to an end in Malaysia, though he remained in championship contention

For two countries so close together, separated only by the narrow ribbon of water known as the Strait of Malacca, Indonesia and Malaysia have international rallies which are vastly different. True that the terrain and the weather are similar, but the style and efficiency of running are not at all so. July’s Indonesia Rally was slick and well run by a bunch of organisers who are prepared to listen attentively to outside advice, and act upon it. In Malaysia, such counsel seems to fall on ears deafened by a desire not to admit to any shortcomings.

Matters such as an indifferent roadbook which is not consistent throughout and special stages which are far from being closed to other traffic are just two points which are seriously in need of improvement. The result is an event for which the prominent teams have little liking but are obliged to take part due to policy dictates of their far eastern parent companies.

Subaru has an excellent record in the Asia Pacific Championship and, indeed, began 1995 with a fine win by McRae in Indonesia. But Mitsubishi took second and third places and was very closely poised to move up in the series ratings.

In Malaysia, seven of the first 10 finishers were in Mitsubishis, and even one of the remaining three was a Proton Wira, which is actually a badge-engineered Mitsubishi.

The main teams were those of Subaru and Mitsubishi, the former having Imprezas for Colin McRae/Derek Ringer and Possum Bourne/Tony Sircombe. Mitsubishi Lancer E3s were driven by Kenneth Eriksson/Staffan Parmander and Tommi Makinen/Seppo Harjanne.

Prior to the Malaysia Rally, Subaru was comfortably leading with 70 points to Mitsubishi’s 47. Two rallies later, the tables are turned and Mitsubishi heads the list of makes with 82 points to Subaru’s 77.

Outright winners were Eriksson and Parmander, followed closely by team-mates Makinen/Harjanne. Third place went to local men Karamjit Singh and Ron Teoh in a Proton Wira.

There were just 250 miles or so of special stages, but some were very much on the rough side and those who had not recced found themselves slowed on two counts: first having to preserve their cars and second having to make sure they did not take wrong turnings.

The first stage was a short tarmac test in Kuala Lumpur. McRae was fastest here but, as usual with such short but tricky preludes, it proved little. Eriksson moved up on the next and took the lead, only to lose it again on the fifth when he collected a front Puncture in a tyre not equipped with Michelin’s foam inserts. Bourne lost time when his gear selectors loosened and he could only get into third. Later, he put his lmpreza off into a wet ditch (it had been raining) so hard that its rear suspension was wrecked.

McRae’s rally came to a sudden end when, at a sharp corner after a long straight, he went right off the road and back on again, hitting a few things on the way. The damage included a burst radiator and loss of the belts which drove the power steering pump, water pump and alternator. He struggled off the stage, but soon after the overheating had its effect and the engine stopped. Australian Greg Carr stopped when his Proton’s engine expired.

Towards the end, Makinen closed the gap between himself and team-mate Eriksson, but the Finn is not contesting the whole of the series, whereas the Swede is, so Makinen had to admit that there was some sense in a team order to allow Eriksson to win. But the gap became smaller, and it took a few serious words for the Finn to knuckle under and resist his natural instinct to go flat out. Eventually, he finished 2m 1s behind Eriksson.

Among the drivers, Eriksson now leads from McRae by 43 points to 40. Makinen is a somewhat academic third with 27 points and Didier Auriol an even more academic fourth with 15.

Malaysia Rally – 12-14 August, 1995

1: Kenneth Eriksson / Staffan Parmander – Mistubishi Lancer Ev3, GpA
2: Tommi Makinen / Seppo Harjanne – Mistubishi Lancer Ev3, GpA
3: Karamjit Singh / Ron Teoh – Proton Wira 4wd, GpN
4: Tolley Challis / Rod van Straaten – Mistubishi Galant VR4, GpA
5: “Monster” Tajima / Mark Stacey – Suzuki Swift GTi