The third round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) held in Australia at the International Rally of Queensland, got off to a dramatic start on day one with many crews succumbing to a multitude of problems including Gaurav Gill’s shock retirement with team-mate Jan Kopecký taking the overall rally win on day two.
Gill’s low-speed accident, caused by a broken steering rack, put him off the side of a steep hill in second gear causing him and co-driver Glenn Macneall to retire from the rally during the first day.
Team MRF bosses said later the same day that the car was too badly damaged to rejoin the rally but confirmed both Gill and Macneall were okay and suffered no injuries, reiterating that the safety gear they heavily invest in did its job.
Piloting his Team MRF Skoda Fabia S2000 to victory, Kopecký eventually finished over six minutes ahead of his closest APRC rival, local driver Mark Pedder in his Pedders Suspension Mitsubishi Evolution 10, with Rally Queensland rookie, Jun Xu of China, rounding out the podium in third.
Kopecký’s biggest drama throughout the weekend was encountering cows in the middle of the road, often at high speeds, which he said caused his team great concern but overall, he’s thoroughly enjoyed the rally.
Kopecký said: “Unfortunately Gill didn’t come to the finish so we scored maximum points here. And we had some interesting experience with some cows here on this rally, that was not so nice but the stages was good and the organisation was good.
“It’s tricky here, because again recce was fully dry, fully dusty and we had some rain showers during the night which made some places really slippy.”
In addition to his rally win, Kopecký also wrapped up the Pacific Cup title contested over the three rounds held in New Zealand, New Caledonia and Australia.
Pedder echoes Kopecký’s comments but added the last stage of the rally was tense for his Pedders Suspension team.
“It’s really good to be here. We were fairly nervous going into that last one [stage] and I think that’s the slowest I’ve driven in a rally car for a long time. We kept a safe pace to get to the end and score some points.”
Although it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Pedder after a puncture slowed him four kilometres from the end of the Derrier stage yesterday.
Team mate and compatriot Tom Wilde also had a successful rally despite handling issues during day one to take the two wheel drive win in his Verandah Apartments Renault Clio and finishing the rally in fourth, putting him in a good position for the remainder of the championship.
“It was a long tough weekend, as it always is here in Queensland but we got through to the finish. We’re really happy and it is a good points haul for us. We were just off the pace to what we were expecting to be here but the car ran faultlessly all weekend thanks to the Verandah Apartments team so overall a pretty good weekend for us,” said Wilde.
Chasing Wilde in the rally was New Zealander Michael Young who finished the rally in fifth, bringing the points gap between himself and Wilde even closer yet the Kiwi maintains the championship lead.
“It’s nice to finish Queensland as last year didn’t go so well. We’re really happy; it’s good for the team with both cars home and with a good position. The car didn’t suit the fast stages but we went well in the tight twisty stuff I think.”
Young also encountered cows during the first day, causing him to lose time, in addition to a small off during stage three but it ultimately didn’t cost the 21-year-old too much.
Young’s Cusco Racing team-mate, Sanjay Takale from India, rounded out the top six after struggling with engine problems all weekend causing him to haemorrhage time throughout both days.
A misfiring engine is believed to be the cause of Takale’s time-loss, after he initially set fast times and diced with Young, challenging the youngster.
“We got the car home. We are losing power on the top end of the car so this [result] is the best possible option we could go for, with good points for the championship. The stages were good, along with the organisation but now I look forward to going back to Asia with rally in Malaysia.”
The next rally on the APRC calendar is the Malaysian Rally, set to be held in August around the city of Johor Bahru.
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Rally of Queensland – APRC Results