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 today with many crews succumbing to a multitude of problems.
Reigning APRC drivers’ champion, Gaurav Gill is out of the event after a low-speed accident, caused by a broken steering arm put him off the side of a steep hill in second gear causing him and co-driver Glenn Macneall to retire from the rally. Team MRF bosses say the car is too badly damaged to rejoin tomorrow but confirmed both Gill and Macneall were okay and suffered no injuries, reiterating that the safety gear they heavily invest in, did its job.
Meanwhile Team MRF team-mate, Jan Kopecký, who took over the rally lead after Gill’s retirement, enjoyed a largely uneventful day in comparison but still encountered cows on the road and replacing the rear suspension at the midday service break. However Kopecký still brought his Team MRF Skoda Fabia S2000 home over three minutes ahead of his closest rival; local Australian driver, Mark Pedder, in his Pedders Suspension Mitsubishi Evolution 10.
Pedder also had some troubles with a puncture slowing him four kilometres from the end of the Derrier stage yet ends the day well ahead of Jun Xu of China. “We got lucky with the puncture. It could have happened a lot earlier, but it didn’t, so we didn’t lose too much time. You’ve got to take the good luck while you get it. But overall it’s been a pretty good day and we’ve been taking it reasonably easy,” said Pedder.
Fellow Australian, Tom Wilde, piloting his Verandah Apartments Renault Clio finished in fourth after struggling with the car’s handling. Wilde said: “The car has been losing its rear end so the boys are trying to change it back to the same setup I had here last year because that worked well. It’s a big learning curve for me but I’m really enjoying it. “Ideally I’d like to be a bit quicker at my home round but we’ll try more tomorrow. There are a couple of cars in front that we can catch which would be really good. It’d certainly put a bigger smile on my face.”
Current two-wheel-drive championship leader, Michael Young in his Cusco Racing Proton Satria Neo, trails behind Wilde and says some minor issues slowed his progress however he remains optimistic about his progress. “We had a couple of problems this morning which cost us some time, like cows on the stage and small off on stage 3, but overall I’m pretty happy with how the day has gone. We’ve been aiming to be fast, but clean, and we’ve done that. The main thing for us this weekend is just to finish and get some points,” explained Young.
Cusco Racing team-mate, Sanjay Takale, remained in a tight battle with Young all day but dropped 10 seconds behind after an engine misfire during the last three stages. “We lost a lot of power and time under power and going up hills today but it has been a reasonable day. We also had no battery so had to push start every time,” said Takale. “But I really enjoyed the battle with Michael [Young] today. He’s a good boy, we’re very good friends, and he’s very talented so it’s great for me.”
The rally action continues tomorrow around the small town of Imbil, with six closed special stages over 118 competitive kilometres. The event wraps up at the Imbil Showgrounds at approximately 2.00pm. To keep up to date with APRC news, follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/aprctv) or Twitter (www.twitter.com/aprctv)
APRC Registered Competitors Results after leg one (gap to first):