The 21st FEDERAL-VESSEL Asia Cross Country Rally (AXCR) for four wheelers and motorcycles will be flagged off from Thailand’s exotic beach town of Pattaya tomorrow, with the 2,400-kilometre challenge ending in the World Heritage city of Siem Reap six days later.
In a complete departure from the 2014 circuit when the rally ended in Phnom Penh, the finishing line has once again been moved back to Siem Reap with the breathtaking sights of Koh Kong and Sihanoukville added to ensure greater diversity of terrain.
This exciting adventure for both man and machine returns after a nearly two year break since Cambodia opted out of the 20th edition, which involved a 2,500 km journey between Thailand and Myanmar, with the contest starting and ending in Chiang Mai after passing through Mae Hong Son, Mae Sot, Sukothai-Phrae.
Over six demanding stages, the rally route winds its way through mountains, jungles, shoreline, plantations, rice fields and rural communities in both Thailand and Cambodia, making it one of the toughest on the continent.
The AXCR, jointly organised by Ortey, Thailand and R1 Japan, is sanctioned by the Federation International Automobile (FIA) and Federation International Motorcycle (FIM).
The rally is supported by the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Cambodia’s Ministry of Tourism, along with both Pattaya and Siem Reap city administrations.
After Saturday’s official scrutiny and ceremonial start, the first leg on Sunday will take the competitors through the first two legs in Thailand.
The third leg will feature a sector between Koh Kong and Sihanoukville on August 16. The fourth leg will bring the rally to Phnom Penh the following day.
The stage finishes on the outskirts of the capital, before the competitors overnight at Hotel Cambodiana. This will be the ideal chance for the city’s motorsport fans to catch the bikes and cars taking part.
Over the next two days, the field will cover the Phnom Penh-Siem Reap sector before heading to the finish in front of Angkor Wat next Friday.
In 2014, Cambodia’s Koun Phandara put up a sterling show on his KTM 350cc to finish second, behind Japan’s Keisuke Maeda riding a KTM 450cc, in the motorbike rally that was run concurrently with the cars.
Japan’s Tadao Ezure on a Yamaha was third in a field of 16 starters.
Two other Cambodian debutants, Touch Thatch on a KTM and Chea Lykheang on a Yamaha, were classified fifth and seventh, respectively.
In the same year, Cambodia’s first team to take part in a four-wheeler rally earned plaudits from organisers for completing the course, though they were way out of depth competitively.
Driver Ho Sittikun with co-drivers Sun Sothea and Som Sokosal completed the course in their Toyota Tundra.
Two Cambodian teams are set to figure in the four wheeler class this year while there will be up to a dozen local motorcyclists in the fray, trying to emulate Koun Phandara’s grand show two years ago.