The Asia Cross Country Rally (AXCR), an international rally officially recognized by the Federation of International Automobile (FIA), has kicked off in Pattaya, a luxury beach resort in central Thailand.
This year's competition will run for seven days, from August 13 to 19, and on the contestants will cross the border with Lao P.D.R. and head for Pakse, the second largest city in Lao P.D.R. The rally will then continue on a loop course for two days, starting at a hotel in Pakse, and finishing at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Prasat Wat Phou on the final day.
The competition was forced to be canceled for two full years due to the Covid-19, and the third year was postponed to November during the dry season. The third year was postponed to November, the dry season, and the event was held on a shortened schedule that did not include travel, so it could not necessarily be called a "full recovery.
This year 2023, the rally will be held in summer for the first time in four years. This year, it will be the first time in four years that the event will be held in the summer, and the "traditional AXCR battle," held in the middle of the rainy season in a tropical monsoon climate, will finally return to this region.
The first half of the race will be held from Pattaya to the northwest of Thailand, passing through Prachinburi and Surin to Ubon Ratchathani. Here, the familiar plantations and jungles of Thailand.
The second half of the route in Laos is a series of muddy areas that turn to mud and slush as soon as it rains, and the red soil on the east bank of the Mekong side. The AXCR course continues to be difficult and cannot be easily driven through even with a full-fledged four-wheel drive vehicle.
The total length of the course is approximately 2,070 km, of which approximately 1,090 km are road sections where rally travel on public roads within a set time, and approximately 980 km are selective stages where xompetition compete for speed by being timed.
This year's competition vehicles consist of 21 motorcycles, 1 sidecar, and 41 four-wheelers, for a total of more than 63 vehicles. Adding the service vehicles (about 100) and media vehicles (about 30) to this number, a group of more than 200 vehicles and 500 over people involved in the event will be moving daily to the finish in Lao P.D.R.
The nationalities of the entrants are as diverse as in previous years, including India, Indonesia, Australia, Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam and USA. The addition of Israel, which was participating for the first time, made this a truly international event.
The Toyota Hilux, which has been very popular in Thailand recently, dominated the four-wheeled field with 15 cars, followed by 9 Isuzu D-Max rivals, 4 Mitsubishi Triton, 3 Toyota Fortuner, Toyota Land Cruiser, and Ford Raptor cars, and 2 Suzuki Jimny. The Land Cruisers were each of the 80, 200, and 300 entered, and the battle between old and new machines is sure to be interesting.
Last year's AXCR, "Team Mitsubishi RALLIART," announced a new model of the "Triton" just prior to this year's rally. The team had made more serious modifications for cross-country rallies than last year. And was fully prepared for the event with a three-vehicle team. Each of the three vehicles has completed more than 800 km of rough road tests, including extremely muddy roads, and are now competing with their fangs bared to take the crown of two consecutive championships with the world premiere of the new model.
The Toyota "Hilux Revo" and its SUV model "Fortuner" are the ones who will be facing this challenge. We would like to draw your attention to the two Hilux Revos led by "Toyota Gazoo Racing Thailand," which finished 2nd overall last year, and the Fortuner of "Toyota Gazoo Racing Indonesia," which came in 3rd and 4th despite being a semi-works car. Also, keep an eye on the Isuzu D-MAX of the Ayumi Racing Team, which showed overwhelming speed in the first half of last year's race.
The ceremonial start was held on "Walking Street," the most bustling street in Pattaya. A special stage was set up on the neon-lit, fascinating, noisy street, and as the sun set around 8:00 p.m., a colorful array of machines gathered to compete.
Pattaya deputy mayor Krisana Boons wads then announced the opening of the rally in high spirits, and one by one, the 63 rally vehicles started off.
The rally will begin in earnest tomorrow, Monday the 14th. Motorcycle competitors will start from the GRAND PALAZZO HOTEL PATTAYA at 6:00 AM. Please look forward to my report from tomorrow onward.
See you soon!