Team MRF drivers are primed to make it three-in-a-row when the action starts in the International Rally of Queensland, the third and final round in the Pacific leg of the 2014 Asia Pacific Rally Championship, which got off to a ceremonial start on Friday.

Defending APRC champion Gaurav Gill (co-driver Glenn Macneall) won the first leg at Whangarei (New Zealand), ahead of teammate Jan Kopecky (Pavel Dresler), and the Czech paid back the compliment at Rally New Caledonia last month. 

Tied on top of the drivers’ points table with 66 points each, the two are confident of breaking the deadlock by steering the distinctive black-and-red Skoda Fabias S2000s over a course that can be demanding due to gravel routes and where the weather can play a major role. 

Gill, whose participation was in doubt because of some visa issues and managed to have a recce session only on Friday morning, was cautious in his outlook.

“Since 40 per cent of the course is new, we will start off in a slow but steady manner to offset any surprises at the beginning,” said the experienced Indian ahead of the ceremonial start.

European champion Kopecky, set for his maiden drive down under, paid tributes to his teammate adding it would be a competitive affair. “We will be made to work very hard. As well as pure speed, we will also have to be clever if we want to win again. We are ready.” 

With a picturesque hinterland providing a lovely setting, rally junkies can witness 13 drivers indulge in some furious driving over 16 special stages on testing stretches in the wooded area and its environs.

The drivers’ standings (after two legs): 1. Gaurav Gill (Team MRF) & Jan Kopecky (Team MRF) 66 points, 3. Michael Young (Cusco Racing) 36, 4. Mark Pedder (Mark Pedder) 32, 5. Tom Wilde (Tom Wilde) 25.

(V.V. Ramanan is in Australia on the invitation of MRF Ltd.)

More In: Other Sports | Sport