Lieu gears up for HK-Beijing Rally

FORMER national champion Michael Lieu has won the drive in a factory-prepared Subaru Vivio in the 555 Hong Kong to Beijing Rally in late October.

A first for a Hong Kong driver, Lieu has been seriously into rallying for six years and, in the past two years, has made a mark on the international scene.

He achieved another first for a Hong Kong-born driver in the New Zealand Rally earlier this month when he won 17 of the 36 Group N special stages in a new Mitsubishi Lancer RS. He had only driven the car for six kilometres on dirt before the event.

The New Zealand Rally is a leg of the World Championship and featured all the top drivers on the circuit.

Lieu finished third overall in Group N - basically for stock standard cars - behind Japan's Yoshio Fujimoto and current world championship leader Alessandro Fassina.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Lieu is competing in the Malaysian leg of the Asia-Pacific Rally Series beginning today in his old Mitsubishi Galant VR4.

''I didn't have enough time to ship the new Lancer to Malaysia and then get it to Australia for the Australian Rally next month,'' he said.

''Naturally, I hope to do well in Malaysia, but I will, basically, be using the event as practice for the Australian Rally and the Hong Kong to Beijing,'' he added.

The Malaysian event will also give him an opportunity to see the Subaru Vivio in action. The diminutive 600 cc turbo-charged Vivio is available in Hong Kong, but is popular in Japan.

''Subaru are keen to get international exposure for the car and that's how the drive in the factory-prepared Vivio came about,'' he explained.

Next season, Lieu will campaign in his Lancer in the New Zealand, Australia and Indonesian rallies and, possibly, also compete in a European leg - if he can get sponsorship.