Canberra, Australia – Friday May 3rd … The first stage of the first day of the first rally in this year’s Asia Pacific Rally Championship did not go quite to plan. Playing a staring role in the Hyundai Accent World Rally Car, Saladin found the conditions unexpectedly slippery despite several weeks of dry weather, and slid wide on a fast left corner, parking the car against a stout tree. Luckily the only damage was to the car, and a severely dented door was the only visible result. That, and the six minutes lost trying to get the car back onto the road. The latter unfortunately moved the crew a long way down the leader board.
Co-driver Jerry Freeman described that particular part of the first stage as “like one foot of talcum powder on top of a rocky base. Only solid local knowledge could have prevented an accident at that point,” he continued “and Saladin should not be upset by this excursion, as it was unavoidable.” And that is how Saladin drove through the other five of the day’s stages. Showing he was not unnerved by the excursion, he was consistently in the top six, moving up the leader board to end the day in 27th place overall, and 8th amongst the APRC competitors.
Team Manager Ali Mazlan said “we’re not unduly concerned. This is a very fast event, and over the next couple of days almost all the top teams will have problems. Saladin’s problem just happened to occur on SS1. If he can maintain his current pace, we are assured of championship points, and that is what matters most.” Ali agreed that “local knowledge is very valuable here … even Karamjit Singh, Malaysia’s other top driver, has said the locals can pick up at least one second per kilometer due to their familiarity with the roads and terrain.” Karamjit unfortunately ended the day with transmission failure, although he will rejoin tomorrow.
Without doubt, the Saladin Rallying entry has taken Australia by storm. At every opportunity the crew and team members are mobbed by media personnel from both TV and newspapers. Large articles have been printed in the national press throughout the week, and the team features regularly on nightly sports bulletins on television. Hopefully the car’s performance over the next couple of days should give them plenty more to write about and film.
The main focus of the team’s exploits for this year is the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) which consists of six events. Following the Rally of Canberra the team will travel to the French Pacific island of New Caledonia, the Rotorua region of New Zealand, plus China, Japan and Thailand.