Rally champions vie to break deadlock at International Rally of Queensland

TWO champion teammates tied in the lead for one of the world’s most prestigious rally series will fight head-to-head to break their deadlock in the International Rally of Queensland (IROQ) on the Sunshine Coast on 20-22 June.

Jan Kopecky from the Czech Republic and Gaurav Gill of India will drive identical Skoda Fabia S2000 cars for the factory-backed MRF team in Round 3 of the FIA Asia Pacific Championship (APRC). Each has scored a win and a second place from the first two rounds in New Zealand and New Caledonia, so with the inevitability that only one will lead after Queensland their rivalry is expected to be intense.

The rally will be staged over two days on more than 240 kilometres of challenging gravel roads in the Mary Valley, after a colourful Ceremonial Start at Kings Beach, Caloundra, on Friday night 20 June. It will also host the East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship and Hankook Tyre Queensland Rally Championship. Adult tickets to dedicated Special Stage spectator points are available on-line through the event website www.rallyqueensland.com.au, priced from $20 with a pre-event discount.

Entry will be free to the Ceremonial Start, where from 5.30pm drivers will display their cars and sign autographs for fans before crossing the official start ramp. Fireworks, entertainment, market stalls and a variety of food and drink outlets promise a great family outing. The rally will be headquartered at Oaks Oasis Resort, Caloundra.

Kopecky, the current European Rally Champion, and defending Asia Pacific Champion Gill are the fastest stars in a field that also represents China, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia and Australia.

The two drivers will approach the Sunshine Coast event from opposite backgrounds. Kopecky’s impressive speed has been proven in the hot cauldron of the European championship, but he has relatively little experience on gravel surfaces, rather than tarmac, and this season is making his first competitive foray outside the northern hemisphere. “Next is Australia. I’ve never been there, so a new country, a new rally and we are looking forward to it,” Kopecky said after his New Caledonia win last month.

Gill has tackled the fast, tree-lined, forestry tracks around Imbil for the past six years, winning in 2010. In 2013, his consistency over six rounds earned the championship ahead of his teammate – and Kopecky’s predecessor – Esapekka Lappi of Finland.

THIRD on the leader-board, Kiwi driver Michael Young is aiming to consolidate his championship chances although on paper his less-powerful Cusco Racing Proton Satria Neo will be unable to challenge the Skodas. He leads the APRC Production Cup over Australian Mark Pedder and India’s Sanjay Takale. Kopecky is in line to beat Young to the APRC Pacific Cup, which concludes in Queensland after three rounds.

As well as Australia, the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship visits China, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and New Caledonia, with a non-championship event finishing the season in Thailand. On-event television news feeds and a dedicated TV series distributed to more than 118 countries ensures the APRC is seen by a measured global annual audience of 463 million households. Broadcasters include FOX Sports Asia, Outdoor Channel Asia, Guangdong TV China, CCTV-5 China, DD Sports India, FoxSports Australia, Sommet Sports New Zealand and Motors-TV Europe.

The International Rally of Queensland is supported through Tourism and Events Queensland’s Regional Development Program as part of a growing calendar of events across the State. The International Rally of Queensland also is supported by the Sunshine Coast Regional Council.

2014 FIA APRC drivers standings (after Rd 2):

1= Gaurav Gill (India) / Jan Kopecky (Czech Republic) 66

3 Michael Young (New Zealand) 36

4 Mark Pedder (Australia) 32

5 Tom Wilde (Australia) 25

6 Jun Xu (China) 17

7 Sanjay Takale (India) 13

2014 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship calendar:

Round 1: Rally of Whangarei (NZ) 11-13 April

Round 2: Rallye de Nouvelle Caledonie 16-18 May

Round 3: International Rally of Queensland 20-22 June

Round 4: Malaysian Rally 15-17 August

Round 5: Rally Hokkaido (Japan) 26-28 September

Round 6: China Rally 7-9 November

For further information, contact: Chris Nixon Media Manager Mob.: (0418) 759 417 Email: media@rallyqueensland.com.au Web: rallyqueensland.com.au, aprc.tv, rally.com.au

This article originally appeared on aprc.tv.