Team MRF drivers Gaurav Gill and Esapekka Lappi will be intent on extending the team’s lead in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) at this weekend’s International Rally of Queensland. Gill, from India, won the previous round of the championship in New Caledonia, while Finnish star Lappi took out round one in New Zealand, giving the Perth-based team the perfect start to the season.
The Race Torque-prepared Team MRF Skoda Fabia S2000s have been the cars to catch so far this season, and only Lappi’s suspension damage in New Caledonia stopped the team from scoring their second 1-2 finish of the year.
Gill and co-driver, Glenn Macneal (AUS), currently have a 19.5 point lead in the APRC, ahead of another Indian, Sanjay Takale, at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza WRX. Lappi, the 2012 Finnish Rally Champion, is a further seven points back, but will be keen to make his mark on his Australian rally debut.
“Queensland is a very nice rally. It’s quite fast but also a good mix,” Gill said. “In regards to the super special stage, I have not done that kind of thing very often, but it sounds like fun and is sure great for the spectators.” “With the support of the Skoda company we have an even more competitive car than last year.”
His team-mate is also looking forward to the challenge of a new event. “I don’t know much about it (the Sunshine Coast), but I heard it’s a very nice area and a good rally. I am still learning a lot so I am looking forward to it,” Lappi said. “I have done something a little bit like that (the super special stage) in Poland. But it’s a new challenge and will be great for everybody who comes to watch us
” Team MRF boss, Lane Heenan, is confident of another victory this weekend, with both drivers eager to assert themselves and consolidate on their start to the 2013 APRC. “It’s been a great start to the year, and I don’t see any reason why that can’t continue,” Heenan said.
“The Skoda Fabia S2000s have proven to be very reliable this year, and both drivers should enjoy the tricky Queensland stages. “Having been to the event before, Gill should have an advantage, but Lappi is an incredibly fast and talented young driver, so there’s no reason why he can’t be pushing for victory as well.”
Team MRF’s performance in Queensland will be watched closely by the visiting Skoda Head of Motorsport from the Czech Republic, Michal Hrabanek.
The third round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship gets underway with two runs around the 2.2km Nambour Showgrounds stage on Friday night, where big crowds are expected to cheer on the field. The rally proper gets underway on Saturday morning, with 10 stages, the longest being the 21.22km ‘Derrier’ test, run twice during the day. On Sunday, a further nine stages await the remaining crews, before the podium finish in Imbil, north west of Caloundra. In total there are 21 special stages with a competitive distance of 223 kilometres.
Championship standings after round 2 of 7
1. Gaurav Gill / Glenn Macneall 65.5pts;
2. Sanjay Takale / Sean Gregory 46;
3. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm 39;
4. Michael Young / Daniel Willson 24;
5. Hiroshi Asakura / Takumi Takahashi 5;
Manufacturers: 1. ŠKODA 74.5; 2. Subaru 52; 3. Mitsubishi 42.5; 4. Toyota 11.