The opening day of the International Rally of Queensland, the third round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), saw Finland’s Esapekka Lappi storm into the lead his rivals struck problems during the 107 kilometres of closed special stages.
Piloting his Team MRF Skoda Fabia S2000, Lappi extended his lead to just over two minutes by the end of the day, after team-mate Gaurav Gill struck problems.
“It was a really good day for us,” said Lappi, “I struggled in the morning stages but I got confidence in the afternoon loop when the roads were a little drier.”
“It’s never easy to maintain a gap but tomorrow we will take it very calm and try to avoid any stupid mistakes.”
Meanwhile, Gill had a frustrating day when small problems, such as a puncture, caused him to haemorrhage time.
“We drove almost 15 kilometres with a puncture because it was quite a fast stage and I thought we would have lost more time if we had stopped to change it,” explained Gill.
“Now we just try to get maximum points for the championship, it would be foolish to push now.”
Rounding up the podium is Japanese driver Atsushi Masumura in his Mitsubishi Evolution 10 with a buffer of almost two minutes over Australian driver, Adrian Coppins.
“We are happy with result and tomorrow we just continue driving steady,” said Masumura.
Coppins also had a good day and loved the battle between himself and compatriot Simon Knowles.
“The biggest problem we had all day was hitting a branch and breaking the wing mirror!” laughed Coppins.
“But we’re pretty happy. It’s awesome to have all of the eight cars that started, finish the day and I think that’s a real testament to the calibre of drivers in the APRC.”
While all APRC entrants finished the day, it was still a disappointing day for both Sanjay Takale (Subaru Impreza WRX) and Michael Young (Cusco Toyota Vitz RS) who also suffered punctures on the rough Australian roads.
Takale said the puncture cost him dearly but he was making good times against his other competitors before the puncture occurred, so is hopeful of a good result tomorrow.
New Zealander Michael Young said “we nudged a bank in the second pass through Derrier which was enough to knock the tyre off the rim and took a long time to change because the jack was sinking into the soft dirt. Other than that, the Cusco Toyota Vitz is performing perfectly and we were happy with our stage times today.”
Despite losing approximately seven minutes with the puncture, Young still leads the two-wheel-drive class over Hiroshi Asakura in a Proton Satria Neo.
Tomorrow also sees the culmination of the Pacific Cup Championship, contested over three rounds held in New Zealand, New Caledonia and Australia. Gill currently leads the Pacific Cup championship but local Queenslander, Simon Knowles, who currently sits in second, says he’s right there behind him [Gill] if he makes any mistakes.
“But even if we finish in second, I will still feel as though we’ve won. We’re a four person team going up against the big boys so we’d be happy just to finish.”
The final day of the International Rally of Queensland sees crews compete over 111.67 kilometres of closed special stages before finishing at the Imbil Showgrounds service park at approximately 3.30pm. Details of the television coverage, produced by APRCtv, will be announced after the event.