Young Kiwi rally driver embraces toughest event of 2016
International Kiwi rally driver Mike Young is set to tackle the fifth round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) this weekend in Malaysia, as he continues to aim for the top in the overall APRC drivers’ championship.
While he currently sits in third with his Cusco EZY Racing Subaru Impreza, Young is hoping to simply maintain that position and finish the rally, which he describes as “one of the toughest rallies I’ve ever done”.
“The Malaysian Rally is notoriously difficult, as I’m sure you’ve already heard. It’s always a good challenge but you have to drive to survive here otherwise it can be over so quickly,” said Young.
“Not only are the roads tricky but inside the car temperatures can reach up to 50 degrees Celsius so it makes things quite difficult. You learn how to manage it but you can quickly lose your concentration in that kind of heat so you always have to be careful. Due to all that, the finishing rate is quite low which can work in your favour if you’re one of the ones to finish,” he continued.
The narrow muddy roads of Malaysia often have deep car-breaking ditches lining each side of the road with huge trees right on the roads edge in other places; both tricky obstacles which Young is familiar with and keen to avoid.
“I’ve enjoyed good success in Malaysia in the past but last year I pushed too hard to quick and made a big mistake. It ended our rally on one of the early stages and while we were able to re-join, it really cost us so I don’t want to be making that mistake again,” Young explained.
Young credits his navigator, Malcolm Read for keeping him focussed while increasing his speed due to the development of their pace-notes [detailed rally directions].
“Malcolm [Read] and I have been working really hard on developing our notes to get more information in there so we can push harder and go faster. It’s certainly working but we’ll need to get them absolutely right here as the conditions can change so quickly here with rain and so on,” he said.
It is a special event for Young and co-driver Read of Hamilton who started their professional partnership at this event four years ago, and in that time, the duo have gone on to enjoy multiple regional successes including youngest driver to win the FIA Asia Cup. Interestingly, the Malaysian Rally also marks Read’s 100th event since starting with well-known rally driver Miles McElwain in New Zealand around 10 years ago, so a good result would be extra special for the Kiwi pair in Malaysia.
With the backing of both Cusco (based in Japan) and EZY Racing (based in Sri Lanka), the pair believe that while they’re in a slightly heavier and older Group N Subaru Impreza, they can challenge for a podium if they get the formula right.
“The Cusco EZY Racing Subaru will have to undergo a lot of changes ahead of this rally [Malaysia]. Everything is completely different to the fast roads of Japan but I have the best team behind me and I’m sure they’ll give me a great car,” said Young.
The Cusco prepared Subaru has undergone a major overhaul of parts throughout the car in preparation for the gruelling event although Young says even if the roads are dry like they were at testing today, it can still be slippery due to the “pea-stones” which are like marbles but admits it shouldn’t be too much of a problem being seeded third on the road. Although the biggest challenge for Young may come in the form of his team-mate Yuya Sumiyama who is seeded behind him.
“I think my biggest rival will be my Cusco team-mate Yuya [Sumiyama]. He’s very quick and has a lot of experience on these roads. It will be good to go head-to-head with him and compare times but it’s also really important for us to think about the overall APRC drivers’ championship where we currently have a podium place. We don’t want to lose that,” Young said.
In the meantime, Young and Read have a busy schedule ahead of them in Malaysia ahead of the official start later in the week. Both say they are looking forward to everything Malaysia has to offer including “the amazing food and awesome culture”, ahead of testing, reconnaissance [preview to rally stages where the teams write pace notes] and sponsor events.
The Malaysian Rally is Young’s seventh international rally of the year, which has seen the 23-year-old compete in Estonia in a Markko Martin Motorsport prepared car, along with two events in Japan, and the rest of the APRC where he also debuted the BYD hybrid car in China; a first for an FIA sanctioned event.
The Malaysian Rally gets underway on Friday evening from 8.45pm at the Angsana Complex before crews tackle 234 kilometres of closed special stages on Saturday and Sunday around the palm oil plantations near Kota Tinggi.