Skoda, the European manufacturer behind the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) team, Team MRF, has arrived in Caloundra ahead of this weekend’s International Rally of Queensland with team driver’s Gaurav Gill and Esapekka Lappi rearing to go head-to-head for top honours.
The International Rally of Queensland is the third round of the APRC, which is currently lead by Gill, ahead of compatriot Sanajy Takale in second with team-mate Esapekka Lappi rounding up the championship podium in third. Interestingly, both Skoda drivers have each secured in a win in the 2013 Championship, so both will be pushing hard to take the top spot at this round, but also focussed on scoring maximum points for the manufacturer championship which Skoda currently leads over Subaru.
Gill is optimistic about the rally after making a few setup changes to the car after the last round held in New Caledonia and says he will be hunting for the win. “We haven’t driven the car since New Caledonia but we’ve put some new suspension into it so it should be good,” explained Gill. “We always only have one goal, and that is to win, so we’ll be trying hard this weekend.”
The India based driver has competed on Queensland’s tough roads before so has a small advantage over 2012 Finland Rally Champion and team-mate Lappi. “I’ve never been to Australia before but I’ve been looking at some footage on Youtube to see what the roads are like,” said Lappi, “but I’m really looking forward to driving here.” “I’ve been warned about the rocks in the stages here but other than that, we’re expecting some good roads here which should be a lot better than New Caledonia.”
Lappi also says it is highly beneficial for him to get experience in all the different rallies around the world as he progresses his career as a driver, particularly on surfaces he is not familiar with.
Both Gill and Lappi were able to take advantage of Queensland’s beautiful white sandy beaches this morning after they teamed up with Maroochydore Surf Life Club to take some time out and park the Team MRF Skoda on the soft sand at the beachfront. “It was a little different to what we normally do on the beach,” laughed Gill “but still pretty cool!”
The International Rally of Queensland gets underway at 6.90pm on Friday 12 July from Nambour Showgrounds. It runs over 223 kilometres of closed special stages over two days around the Imbil and Nambour regions and finishes at the Imbil Showgrounds service park at approximately 3.30pm on Sunday. Event organisers have also included a special stage at the Nambour Showgrounds where fans can get up close to the rally action on Friday evening and watch the cars race around the specially designed track.