AFTER two victories in two events, Team MRF is looking to build on its dominant start to the 2012 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship at this weekend’s Brakes Direct International Rally of Queensland.
Drivers Chris Atkinson and Gaurav Gill have one win apiece for the Indian team in their Race Torque-prepared Skoda Fabia S2000s and will be looking to extend their 1-2 position in the driver standings.
Gold Coast-based Atkinson is determined to win his home event after electrical problems saw him finish second at the previous event in New Caledonia, with Gill taking victory.
“Rally Queensland is one of the events I’ve been looking forward to the most,” Atkinson said.
“It’s always great to compete on home soil – both for myself and the team – and after not finishing the event last year, I’m very excited about the rally.
“Together with the Race Torque team, I’m learning the car all the time and every time we drive it we’re improving it a little bit.
“While there will be no major technical improvements for Rally Queensland, we’re continually fine tuning the car to make it faster.”
The former Subaru World Rally Team driver said he expected the Australian round of the series to be a lot easier on cars than the New Caledonian rally last month.
“With narrow and tricky stages, Queensland is an event that you really need to be quite precise with your driving, but I’m confident we can push for victory.”
Gill’s victory in the last round was his fourth in the APRC – including Queensland in 2010 – but was his most special.
“It makes me proud as an Indian that I can match and beat guys like this,” he said.
“This win has helped prove the point that we guys can defeat the rest, with 25 percent of their infrastructure and experience.“
Team MRF’s major challengers will again be the Malaysian factory Proton team, with drivers P-G Andersson of Sweden and Alister McRae of Scotland.
Andersson, who replaced Atkinson at the British-run team this year, has been fast on both events, while defending champion McRae has suffered his share of bad luck.
Atkinson and Gill will test the Super 2000 Skodas in the Mary Valley forests tomorrow, before the first competitive Special Stage on Saturday morning.
Leg one’s schedule involves nine stages with a total competitive distance of 118 kilometres, the longest of which is the 27.06km Derrier stage, run twice.
Leg two commences on Saturday night with two 1.9km runs around the Caloundra Aerodrome Main Event spectator stage.
It continues on Sunday with a further eight stages, the last of which, Big Derrier, is the longest of the event at 34.46km.
All up, the 15 Asia Pacific crews entered will tackle 235.86kms of competitive driving.