Michael Young, the 19-year-old rally driver from New Zealand, heads to the 2012 Malaysian Rally next weekend focussed on consolidating his championship prospects.

Young currently has a commanding lead in the Junior Cup category of the 2012 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship with the Malaysian event counting as the third round of the series.

The only Kiwi in the four-strong junior class, Young has twice the number of points of his nearest rival, Japanese driver Akira Bamba, after contesting APRC events in Whangarei and Queensland.

“We are leading the championship after two rounds with a good lead on the other junior competitors,” says Young before he left New Zealand. “The hard work has been done; we must now think about the championship and focus on finishing this tough event. But of course I want to win again!”

Young and his co-driver Tasmanian Daniel Willson are in the interesting situation of having rallied more frequently in Malaysia than they have in any other country. “We have good experience of Malaysian roads - this is my fourth event in Malaysia although I haven’t rallied in this part of the country before. If we are in a position to win, we won't hold back!”

Young and Willson meet up with their team, Japan-based Cusco Racing, in the Malaysia’s southern-most city, Johor Bahru, on Monday before the event runs over the weekend of 13 to 15 July. “We will test with the team on Tuesday and have a lot of preparation to do with the Proton Satria – we need to replace the clutch and the drive-shafts after the Queensland event which was rough on the gear. Also Malaysian rallies are very low speed so we will be using lots of clutch and changing from second to first a lot.”

Young and Willson have the opportunity to complete a two-pass reconnaissance of the rally route on Wednesday and Thursday before Friday evening’s official start ceremony. All competitors then start the event at 9:30 pm around the 2.5 km super special stage around the Angsana shopping complex which also houses the service park for all rally crews. With an 11 am start on Saturday, they tackle 155.4 km of special stages to the north of the city before Sunday’s 79.88 km of competitive stages and the finish ceremony in the afternoon.

Young is passionate about competing in the Asian events, despite the challenges of the tropical climate and tree-lined plantation roads typical to the Malaysian event. “I love the whole experience of Malaysia; the food and the people are awesome. The rally will be very tricky coming from a New Zealand winter to the heat of at least 30 degrees. And remember that temperature is almost double inside the car. The roads are often rocky, rough and extremely slippery if wet! Through the plantations, they’re lined with palm oil trees and deep ditches, so we have to be super aware of those challenges which can end our rally very easily.”

Competing under the Mike Young Motorsport banner, Young drives a two-wheel-drive Proton Satria 1.6-litre rally car built and prepared by Japan's Cusco Racing and is fortunate to have the support of Yokohama Tyres which provides as many tyres as Young needs throughout the event.

After Malaysia, Young heads to Japan in September for the final round of the 2012 APRC Junior Cup. The APRC Junior Cup was first introduced in 2011 with the intention of increasing opportunities for young talented drivers from within the region. It’s open to drivers aged 28 years or younger as at 1 January 2012 driving currently homologated two-wheel-drive cars with a maximum engine capacity of 1600cc, and competitors must enter at least two rounds to qualify for points.