MRF Tests in readiness Team MRF had its first hit-out on the Canberra rally roads this week with some solid test sessions on the Hyles Block stages near the Urriara Forestry settlement in preparation for this weekend’s Rally of Canberra. The team has arrived in Australia as first-up winners in the Asia-Pacific championship, with Japan’s Katsu Taguchi scoring in the opening round in New Caledonia.
Taguchi had enjoyed a comfortable lead after day one, then was able to consolidate on day two when his closest rival and Australian team-mate Scott Pedder had a flat tyre, then later slipped off the road. The team has three cars in the Asia-Pacific component of the rally, with Taguchi, Pedder and Indian driver Guarav Gill all aboard striking red Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions.
After some quick laps during the test session on the dry, dusty Hyles roads, Taguchi declared that he was already quite happy with the suspension set-up of his car as it had run in New Caledonia and was now looking for the right tyre for the Canberra conditions, which he expects will be dramatically different from the opening round. “New Caledonia was wet on day two, with a very slow stage near the end with much mud and very tricky,” he said. “This is very different but I have quite a bit of experience here; I have been coming to Canberra nine times now so have a good idea what to expect.”
The ROC is only Pedder’s second event in a left-hand drive car and he admits he’s still adapting to being on the “wrong” side of the car. “I haven’t changed gears with the window winder yet, so that’s a good thing!” he quipped. “But I’ve still got to fine-tune myself a little bit more and these test sessions are certainly helping that.” What’s new about the Canberra rally this year is that it starts with the longest special stage: nearly 29kms of flat-out running over the loose, dusty roads at Tidbinbilla. “On both days, half of the competitive distance of the rally is in the first three stages,” Pedder explained. “That means there’s no way you can ease yourself in and get a feel for it; it will be absolutely flat-out from the start. “If you’re too slow out of the blocks, you won’t make make up that time later.”
Giant Indian tyre maker MRF has brought 230 specialised rally tyres to Canberra for the three cars, and another 80 are on their way this week. So Pedder and his team-mates should have a good choice of rubber regardless of what weather Canberra throws up this weekend. “Canberra is a bit of a weird place to rally because when it rains, the roads actually get better,” Pedder said. “When it’s dry and dusty, it [the road] breaks up as more traffic goes over it. But there’s also some tricky sections which might look like bulldust, but underneath is this really hard-packed clay surface.”