Rifat Sungkar and co-driver Scott Beckwith put themselves back in title contention in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, after securing maximum points at the Rally of New Caledonia on Sunday.
Brendan Reeves of Australia won the three-day rally in Noumea, but the championship points went to second-placed Rifat for finishing with the fastest time among the fully registered APRC drivers in the field.
Rifat, driving for Pertamina XP team, finished the 230-kilometer race in 3 hours, 3 minutes and 50 seconds.
The Indonesian driver picked up the maximum 39 points — 25 championship points and 14 bonus points — but he could have easily fell back after a miscommunication with Australian Beckwith occurred just 12 kilometers from the finish line.
Rifat said he misunderstood an instruction from Beckwith and wound up approaching a corner too quickly, resulting in his Mitsubishi Evo IX skidding off the road and hitting some trees.
The car only sustained light damage, and Rifat was able to get back on the road to seal his best three-day finish in the yearlong APRC series.
“We were lucky to have survived that incident on the last stage, and I’m happy that we met our target,” Rifat said. “This is a very important result for me and our sponsor Pertamina. This is a proud day for Indonesia.”
Alain Dalstein of France (24 points) and Stephane Lechanteur-Socci, another Frenchman, (19 points) rounded out the top three in the APRC category.
The result catapulted Rifat to third place in the overall APRC drivers’ standings with 69 points, behind Japan’s Katsuhiko Taguchi (100 points) and Gaurav Gill of India (97). Taguchi and Gill opted to skip the New Caledonia race.
With Rifat moving up the table, the former Indonesian national rally winner has an outside chance of clinching the drivers’ championship during the season’s final series in China on Nov. 5-7
“We’ll try do our best in the last round, that’s all there is to it. Hopefully, we will be luck enough to win,” Rifat said.