Lieu's sights set on Asian title
By BRUCE MACDONALD
HONG KONG'S leading rally driver, Michael Lieu, will mount a $1.5 million campaign to become the first driver from the territory to win the Group N section of the FIA Asia Pacific Championship.
Lieu, who won Group N in the Indonesian Rally last year, will kick off his ambitious campaign again in Indonesia on July 7.
He plans to do four of the six legs of the championship - Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia, and the 555 Hong Kong to Beijing race in October.
'The sponsorship covers those four events but I may finance the last leg in Thailand myself if I am in with a realistic chance of winning the series,' car importer Lieu said yesterday.
Lieu has received sponsorship backing from Japanese shock absorber manufacturer Tein and Dunlop Tyres.
He will campaign a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution One in Indonesia and use a new Evolution Three for the New Zealand, Australia and 555 Hong Kong to Beijing legs.
'It's the most concerted campaign I have ever mounted and this time I will also have good backup support, just below that of the factory teams,' Lieu said.
Lieu has been at the vanguard of rallying in Hong Kong for many years and at 34, has his sights firmly set on competing in all legs of the World Rally Championship in the future.
'It's every rally driver's ambition to compete in Group A at international level but it's important that I do well in Group N in the Asia Pacific Championship this year.
'Sponsorship is so difficult to get. If I can do well this year and gain exposure it could open up any number of opportunities in the future.
'I'm sure that if I did get a chance to compete at world level it would be like gaining 10 years' experience in one season compared to Group N in Asia,' he added.
Lieu is particularly looking forward to the New Zealand and Australian legs which will also double as legs of the World Championship.
'That's where I will get a really good idea of just how competitive I am,' Lieu said.