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Jari Ketomaa claims podium finish in Malaysia
Three Mpart AP4 Mirages compete in Rally Johor

22nd August 2017

The Rally Johor is this year’s Malaysian round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship and, having finished second in the equivalent event last year, the MPart team were eager to repeat the performance. Using his experience from 2016 when he described the event as ‘the most challenging rally in the world’,  Jari Ketomaa together with his co-driver Ville Mannisenmäki, finished third and in doing so, claimed their second podium result of the season.

Swedish teammates Robert Blomberg and Lars Andersson claimed a hard-earned fourth place in the APRC having been shocked by the levels of humidity. Newcomers to the Mpart team Sanjay Tekale from India his co-driver Noriko Takashita from Japan took delivery of their brand new AP4 Mirage a few days before the event, after it was delayed in transit from Sweden to Malaysia and therefore did well to finish sixth.

Following the ceremonial start on Friday (11th August) evening and a spectator stage around Johor Circuit, Saturday featured six twisty and technical loose surface stages within the Tai Tak Palm Oil plantations, followed by a second visit to Johor Circuit. Sunday saw a return to the plantations and another three stages ran twice.

The sudden downpours during Friday and Saturday had done little to neutralise the extreme levels of humidity that make conditions on this event so demanding. Although temperatures were slightly cooler than that of last year, the rain meant the stages became extremely muddy and slippery – a factor that further added to the challenge for the crews.

Knowing what to expect following his visit to the event in 2016, Ketomaa coped well with the conditions and was pleased to finish the first day in second place – an impressive performance having suffered two broken driveshafts – one on stage two and the other on stage five – which was a re-run of stage two. Consequently, with just two-wheel-drive for most of the day, he was unable to make an impression on the leader, Ole Christian Veiby.

With the rain holding off on Sunday, conditions eased slightly and Ketomma and Mannisenmäki were able to resist the challenge from last year’s winner and Asia Pacific Rally Champions Guruad Gill right up until the final stage.

“This is a very difficult event. Some of the stages have well over 100 corners and the humidity is so high that it drains the energy from you. But we came better prepared this year and, with a little more luck, we could have been challenging for first place.

“Besides the driveshafts and a small issue with the electrics, the Mirage has proved that it is very strong in these conditions and is an ideal car for this region. We now look forward to our next event in Japan. It would be great to finish on the top step of the podium in the country that is home to Mitsubishi.”

Blomberg and Andersson found the conditions very alien to that of their native Sweden and slid off the road on Saturday. Unable to extract the car they abandoned the day’s remaining stages and consequently restarted on Sunday morning.

Very much a baptism of fire for Takale in his new car, he and Takashita adapted well but they too were caught out by the slippery and unpredictable surface and slid into a ditch and damaged the suspension. They also restarted on Sunday.

Both Takale and Blomberg admitted they had learnt a great deal over the course of the weekend, were pleased to make it to the finish and praised the Mirage for its reliability and strength.

The M-Part team now prepares for the Rally Hokaido in Japan, which takes place on 15th – 17th September.


Photos courtesy: Arish Qutb Ahmad Khan

2017 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship calendar:
28-30 April: Rally Whangarei, New Zealand
26-28 May: Rally Canberra, Australia
7-9 July: China Rally
11-13 August: Malaysian Rally
15-17 September: Rally Hokkaido, Japan
24-26 November: Rally of India

Click images to enlarge

Photos credit
Arish Qutb Ahmad Khan