When the Asia Cross Country Rally, also known as AXCR, first started the organiser‘s intention was to launch a premium event, the Dakar Rally of Asia. However at the 15th edition of the AXCR only the number of participants reminded us of the jubilee.
Photos by Ruddiee Khaw
Unfortunately the number of competitors decreased each year. Compared with the past, when 40-50 teams competed along a route crossing 4-5 Asian countries, this year only fifteen competitors registered to challenge each other on the route connecting Thailand and Cambodia. Familiar faces turned up at the scrutineering, with only one newcomer, the Flex Team Show Aikawa who built the first right hand drive Toyota FJ Cruiser rally car.
The flag-off ceremony created quite a stir at Pattaya’s infamous and hot walking street. The participants – if they wanted – could enjoy the night life, as next day’s schedule contained a short 2.14 km SS, with the parc ferme placed again on the Walking Street.
The real race started only on Day 2 with a 212km SS, leading the competitors through Thailand’s mountainous region, known for its beautiful natural landscape. The organisers did not trifle away their time and the timed speed section was followednext day by a 200km special section crossing rubber and rice plantations.
Day 4 offered another 200km SS which was divided in two parts, a 129km and a 77km stage. The route took participants to northern Thailand, circumnavigating the famous man made Huay Tung Tao lake, known as the Chiang Mai Beach.
The next breakpoint was crossing the Thai-Cambodia border. Before reaching the border crossing point, one has to drive through a former refugee camp, now village, which isn’t really a heartwarming sight. Finally the teams arrived safely to the border crossing point and thanks to the good organization they managed to enter Cambodia fairly quickly. Day 4 ended with participants watching the sunset at the fascinating Angkor Wat.
Next day’s stage was fairly short, the participants had to complete a 55km circular track around the world famous temple complex.
However, this special section will remain memorable for a completely different reason. One of the well known contenders, Takuma Aoki, former MotoGP racer from Japan who was left paralyzed after a serious motorcycle crash in 1998 but recently became involved in many cross country rallies by using a specially-modified 4-wheel drive vehicle. After the first 5 stages he held the overall 3rd position and finished 2nd on stage 6, with a 37 seconds lead over Morikawa who held the 2nd position in the overall standing after this round. SoTakuma Aoki decided to stake everything on one card and work off his 22 minutes backlog on this 55km stage. The big rush resulted in a spectacular rollover. The team was unharmed but the only part of the Isuzu that had remained undamaged was its brand label.
Finally 10 teams managed to cross the finishing line. The winner of the AXCR 2011 was Bunchuayluea from Thailand, who led the pack from the 1st SS and gained a 10 minutes lead in the overall standing.