Team MRF’s Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm (co-driver) took a handsome lead over teammates Gaurav Gill and Glenn MacNeall at the end of the first day of the two-day International Rally of Queensland, the third leg of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), here on Saturday.

It was a near perfect show by Finland’s Lappi in mostly cloudy conditions as he won six of the day’s 10 stages.

His brilliant showing overshadowed the early efforts of Gill, who faced some major problems with his car.

Escapes major crash

Gill, who started the day in superb form, escaped a major crash while negotiating a bend in the fourth stage — the second of the day. Two stages were run late on Friday.

Gill encountered the problem after his car fell into a ditch as a result of brake failure, coupled with punctures.

This led to Gill losing precious time and allowed Lappi to take the centrestage. But Gill managed to fight off the rest of the field and be in contention for the title, going into the final day.

Not one to waste the opportunity, Lappi set the tempo for an exciting finish on Sunday.

“The crash was a result of the punctures and I hope to make up for it on Sunday,” said Gill.

“I am confident of a podium finish,” he added.

Lappi, meanwhile, sounded happy with the day’s outcome. “Even though Gill was in command in the early stages, I was able to come back. I hope to do the same tomorrow and hope for the best,” Lappi said.

Atsushi Masumura and Akiko Nakagawa (Super Alex Troop), on a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, were in third place. The lone woman driver, Margot Knowles (Simon Knowles) occupies the fifth place, on a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.

The results (top five): 1. Esapekka Lappi & Janne Ferm (Team MRF, Skoda Fabia) 1:04:25.8s; 2. Gaurav Gill & Glenn MacNeall (Team MRF, Skoda Fabia) +02:00; 3. Atushi Masumura & Akiko Nakagawa (Super Alex Troop, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X) +07:39.8; 4. Adrian Coppins & Tim Batten (Ford Fiesta R2) +0.9:31.6; 5. Simon & Margot Knowles (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX) +10.18.2.

(P. Srinivas Aditya is in Caloundra on the invitation of MRF)

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