Team MRF will eye a hat-trick when the International Rally of Queensland, the third leg of the seven-race Asia-Pacific Rally Championships (APRC), is held here this weekend.

Esapekka Lappi (co-driver Janne Ferm) opened the account for Team MRF with victory at the Rally of Whangarei in New Zealand and Gaurav Gill (co-driver Glenn MacNeall), who was second at Whangarei, won in New Caledonia.

Gill leads the championship table with 65.5 points.

Speaking to the media on Friday, Gill said he was confident of a good show, and added that his Skoda was in good shape to negotiate the rough terrain. The weather has been cool and there are chances of the race being held in wet conditions. Lappi, a WRC driver, was also positive about his chances.

Different conditions

The 22-year-old, however, may find the conditions here different than those he experienced in his first competitive season in the APRC.

Lappi, the current Finnish rally champion, who slipped to the third spot in the standing (39 points) after he damaged his car in New Caledonia would be hoping to make amends here.

Giving the two a run for their money will be Sanjay Takale (co-driver Sean Gregory) in a Subaru Impreza WRX. He is second overall with 46 points after finishing fourth at Whangarei and second at New Caledonia.

The 21-stage rally will be held on Saturday and Sunday. The Super Special Stage at the Nambour Showgrounds and the Pomona Dash are tipped to be the important stages of the rally and good crowds are expected for those two runs.

Team MRF’s Chris Atkinson was the winner here in 2012 while Alister McRae of Proton was second.

Skoda is on top in the manufacturers’ standings with 74.5 points, followed by Subaru (52) and Mitsubishi (42.5 points) respectively.

The husband-wife team of Simon and Margot Knowles of Australia (Mitisubishi Lancer Evo IX) will be one of the attractions as Margot is the only woman participant. On Friday, the showdown for the rally was run over a special 2km course on the Nambour Showgrounds main arena.

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

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