Rifat Helmy Sungkar is set to become the first Indonesian driver to compete in the five-series American Rally in May.
The eight-time national champion is expected to kick off his American tour at the Oregon Trail Rally scheduled for May 3 to 5, followed by the Susquehannock Trail Rally (May 21 to June 1), the New England Forest Rally (July 26 to 27), the Ojibwe Forests Rally (Aug. 23 to 24) and the Lake Superior Performance Rally (Oct. 18 to 19).
“I’ve always longed to take part in the American Rally,” Rifat told a press conference on Thursday. “I’ve tried the Asian, Australian and European rallies, but have never had a chance to race on the American continent, which of course has a different road and atmosphere.”
The 34-year-old said that he would use the opportunity to gain experience and sharpen his skills.
Rifat will compete in the rally’s prestigious Open Class alongside drivers including Ken Block, David Higgins and Antoine L’Estage, who won last year’s New England Forest Rally.
The Indonesian said he would drive the same Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X that he used during the Asia Pacific Rally Championship in 2011. “I’ve made myself familiar with the car and now I have the chance to drive it at the American Rally. I’m sure with some adjustments, I will perform better.”
Rifat, who said he would vie for a place in the top five, has sponsorship from state oil and gas company Pertamina.
The retail marketing manager of Fastron Pertamina, Andria Nusa, said that Rifat’s performance over the last 15 years had justified the company’s endorsement.
Rifat, who was awarded the best athlete award in motorsports by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2005, recently won the Group N class at the World Rally Championship in France in 2012 and was a runner-up at the Asian Pacific Rally Championships in 2009 and 2010.
Andria said that the company was committed to supporting the development of national automotive sports and would continue to looking for young talent. “We will continue evaluating them,” he said.