Pune: Protons were back in fashion at the last rally in Malaysia, but Japan will be tougher terrain given that the country is virtual nursery for rallying as Sanjay Takale begins the penultimate stage of his rookie year in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship 2012 at Hokkaido, Japan.
The Pune Rally driver Takale and his trusted navigator from Kasargod, Musa Sheriff, are almost assured of APRC title in A6 class—they need to finish both Rally Hokkaido and the season-ending China Rally in October—will now be aiming to move up in the overall placings in the two-wheel drive category.
“We are confident of winning our class. I will now go flat out but will be careful not to commit any mistakes. In Hokkaido it will be tough, but I am sure of making points even as it will be home turf for Akira Bamba,” Takale said of the Japanese rally driver, who is placed one step ahead of him in the overall standings.
After taking 20 points from Malaysia, including 5 bonus points, Takale-Sheriff pair is at the top of A6 Class, and on third position overall in 2W category with 65 points in their Proton Satria Neo car named Dreams India team. Former world champion and multiple APRC winner Karamjit Singh of Malaysia is at the top with 83 points—39 of them coming from Malaysia—until then it was Takale who led the standings.
Akira Bamba is second with 72 points and it will be good enough if Takale could erase that benefit and bridge the gap in Japan before the final showdown in China.
“That is exactly the plan. I know it is home rally for Bamba, but I am prepared for the task and earning maximum possible points is my aim,” said Takale as he prepared for the Friday shakedown in Hokkaido after recee early in the morning.
It will be for the 11th time for the FIA APRC to be held in Japan since the first event held in 2002. In 2003 it became the candidate round of the World Rally Championship and the next year it was run in conjunction with the inaugural WRC Rally Japan. However, from 2005 the two events have been run separately and the APRC event was renamed into Rally Hokkaido.
“The weather in September is of early autumn, warm with some chance of rain and temperatures ranging from 10 to 20 degrees celsius. This time of September is also the season in which Tokachi region has about 12 hours of daylight, starting at 0530 hrs,” explained Takale.
The route covers familiar ground in the Tokachi sub-prefecture which includes the spectator stages of Rikubetsu, Obihiro, Honbetsu, Otofuke, Ashoro Long and Pawse Kamuy. There are five spectator points along the route located at Rikubetsu, Obihiro, Honbetsu, Otofuke and Pawse Kamuy, all being the special stages.
Driving for Malaysia-based MRU Motorsports, Takale should benefit as Proton has very strong presence in APRC even as Skodas took early lead in the championship.
“The way the season has progressed, we now have very strong chances and we have to maximise those opportunities. When we started this season, we knew there would be decisions to make for the clash of Rally Hokkaido, it being the penultimate round,” said Takale, who is the only rally driver in APRC to be with 100 percent finish record.
In Malaysia, Takale drove his Proton Satria on the gravel terrain mainly passing through rubber plantations to post 3 hours 47 minutes and 58.8 seconds to win the A6 class. More importantly, the all-India pair of Takale and Musa Sheriff had finished 7th overall as some of the best drivers crashed, including Team MRF’s Gaurav Gill.
Nonetheless, the championship for the overall category is as open as it could be as any of the top three teams could win it from here with two rounds remaining—in Japan and China.
By Indian Sports News Network