The sun shone brightly on its namesake coast in Queensland on Sunday. And so did Gaurav Gill.
The Team MRF driver steered his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X with purpose and panache to win the International Rally of Queensland, the fourth round in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), ahead of Glen Raymond and his MRF teammate, Katsuhiko Taguchi.
The win gave the 29-year-old Indian his second victory in the APRC after his maiden triumph in Indonesia in 2008 and the team drivers their third podium finish of the season. Now only a few points separate the two in the Drivers' Championship as the team prepares for the next race in Indonesia.
Gill who started Special Stage 11, the day's opening stage, just 4.8 seconds ahead of Alister McRae, saw the lead whittled down to a mere seven-hundredth of a second by the Proton R3 Malaysia driver who took that stage.
But dame luck was with Gill as McRae's engine failed immediately thereafter, leaving the former to just negotiate the remaining seven stages safely.
Gill, in spite of not winning a stage on the final day but having only four second placings, finished with a total time of 2 hours, 49 minutes and 35.1 seconds, which was 01:16.0s less than the Raymond siblings.
Chris Atkinson, who had to retire on Saturday, came back to thrill local fans and gave another indication of his racing prowess in these parts by winning six stages.
Albeit, it was too late!
?We were expecting the ?car on steroids', the lightweight Protons, to dominate and had Atkinson and McRae remained on course, it would have been impossible to beat them.
?What matters is who won and I am thrilled with not only with my victory but also with the fact that it has widened the gap between MRF and the other teams,? said Gill.
The genial Taguchi was happy with his show and said the stage had now been set for a nice, healthy battle between him and Gill in the races at Indonesia and China.
When asked about ?team strategy', which has been doing the headlines after the Ferrari incident in Formula One in the recent past, the MRF team Principal, Anthony Rodricks, was forthright in saying there were no ?specific plans' for either of his drivers and the team's interest was paramount.
?Our crew has been working for the entire team's success in the championship and I am happy how the two drivers have risen to the challenge and driven in harmony so far,? said Mr. Rodricks.
The provisional results (after final day): 1. Gaurav Gill (Team MRF) 2 hours, 49 mins, 35.1 secs; 2. Glen Raymond (Raymond) +01:16.0; 3. Katsuhiko Taguchi (Team MRF) +05:04.8; 4. Atsushi Masumura (Super Alex Troop) +17:23.7.