We were at the International Rally of Queensland over the weekend. Here we take a look at the Asia Pacific Rally Championship with this photo feature.
EUROPEAN Champion Jan Kopecky had never seen an Australian rally road before last Wednesday, but he had no trouble streaking to a comfortable lead after day one of the International Rally of Queensland on the Sunshine Coast today.
Kopecky and co-driver Pavel Dresler, both from the Czech Republic, won six of the day’s 10 competitive Special Stages, totalling 118.6 kilometres on fast but challenging gravel roads in the Mary Valley forests around Imbil.
A tarmac-surface specialist in Europe, Kopecky said he expected to be at a disadvantage to Indian teammate Gaurav Gill’s experience in the Queensland event and would have to work hard for success – but the threat disappeared suddenly on the fourth stage when Gill’s Skoda Fabia S2000 crashed spectacularly.
Pushing hard to defend his 2013 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), Gill won the first and third stages, but five kilometres into the New Million stage he felt a suspension link break before the car lurched right on a left-hand corner, speared down a bank and stopped 30 metres down a slope after two rollovers.
Gill and co-driver Glenn Macneall were not hurt, but the car the badly-damaged car was retired. It will be repaired or replaced for the fourth round of the APRC in Malaysia.
The crash broke dramatically a deadlock between Kopecky and Gill in the 2014 championship standings. They were on equal-first points after each took a win and a second place in the preceding rounds of the six-round series, but if Kopecky finishes tomorrow in any position he’ll take the lead.
Australians making a one-off appearance in the APRC field in addition to contesting the East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship (ARC) round filled the minor placings.
Renault Clio driver Scott Pedder finished second, 1 min 27.3 seconds behind Kopecky and, importantly, just ahead of his ARC rival Brendan Reeves, driving a Mazda.
Next after Kopecky among the regular internationals was Mitsubishi Lancer Mark Pedder, in fifth spot behind Matt van Tuinen (Subaru). Chinese driver Jun Xu, competing in Queensland for the first time, finished the day sixth in a Skoda Fabia.
Kopecky reported he and Dresler had a mostly uneventful day, although his crew had to replace the right-rear suspension during a service break after he hit a stump or rock during the morning.
He claimed Gill’s departure would not ease the pressure to be first across the finish podium in the Imbil Showgrounds tomorrow afternoon. Crews face a further six stages and 85.69 competitive kilometres, starting just before 8.30am.
“We had a good day today, but we’ll keep up the pressure tomorrow and watch out for those behind us. If we slow down too much you can lose concentration and anything can happen,” said Kopecky, who earlier this week spent his first days in Australia kayaking, running, cycling and visiting a zoo.
Scott Pedder attributed some of the strong pace of his Renault challenge, which gives away power and all-wheel drive to the Skoda, to revised “pace notes” used by co-driver Dale Moscatt to describe the corners and hazards.
“They’re the best notes we’ve ever written. Hopefully they will serve us well again tomorrow.
“Dale’s done a really good job and I’m full of confidence.
“Tomorrow my goal will be win the heat again and beat Brendan,” Pedder said of his effort to narrow Reeves’ lead in the Australian championship
Photos (c) Sam Tickell, June 2014
Words via IROQ press materials
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