British Driver Mark Higgins has won the International Rally of Queensland but it was only on the very last stage that he managed to finally grab the win.
The two day event held on the Sunshine Coast had several leaders, including Australian Chris Atkinson who led from the first stage in his Proton Satria. Electrical problems though forced an early retirement, allowing countryman Nathan Quinn to leap into the lead.
With the top five drivers covered by only 20 seconds the pressure was on and the young Auzzie slipped back in the afternoon allowing last years Rally Queensland winner Gaurav Gill from India to take over the top spot. Gill’s lead though was short lived as racing up through the order was Proton driver Alister McRae.
After earlier problems the Scotsmen snatched the lead on the very last forest stage of the day and increasing the margin in the evening Coloundra based spectator stages. McRae flew through the first of the Sunday tests, but then hit problems in a rough water-crossing when the engine to stopped momentarily, costing the Flying Scotsmen time and the lead.
Gill bounced back into first position, but immediately came under pressure from multiple British Champion Mark Higgins. Going into the last stage the pair were only separated by 1.4 seconds and the tension on the start-line of the final 35 kilometer stage was obvious.
With such a long last stage in was inevitable that Gill would catch the struggling McRae. Following in his dust Gill had to settle for second allowing Higgins his first APRC win, “I’m really really pleased, that worked out perfectly. We knew the event wasn’t going to be won on the first day and the plan was to save the car, for a big push today”, said Higgins at the finish line.
The two MRF Mitsubishi drivers Gill and Japans Katsu Taguchi took second and third on the podium, while McRae at least scored points for 4th spot.
Indonesian drivers Rifat Sungkar and Subhan Aksa were 5th and 6th in their Mitsubishis.
Higgins win means the championship is now wide open as the teams head to next months event in New Caledonia.
Final Results – Rally Queensland 2011
1 Mark Higgins / Ieuan Thomas, Mitsubishi, 2:22:14.2
2 Guarav Gill / Glen Macneal, Mitsubishi, 2:22:30.0
3 Katsuhiko Taguchi / Mark Stacey, Mitsubishi, 2:23:23.8
4 Alister McRae / Bill Hayes, Proton, 2:27:59.6
5 Rifat Sungkar / Scott Beckwith, Mitsubishi, 2:28:17.8
Story and Photos: Brian Young – aprc.tv