After the first two rounds of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), ŠKODA Motorsport’s Pontus Tidemand is in the overall championship lead. Right now he is in Australia to continue the tough fight as it is time for round three, International Rally of Queensland, this weekend.
The lineup in this year’s International Rally of Queensland is experience wise the toughest in years. The 55 entered crews includes representatives from eight nations, among them Pontus’ MRF teammates Gaurav Gill, who is the 2013 APRC champion and three time Indian champion, and the 12 time New Caledonian champion Jean-Louis Leyraud – all three of them behind the wheel of a ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000. In addition, drivers like Indonesian Subhan Aksa, who previously has competed in the WRC, also offers great competition.
Although it has been a month since the last event in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, Pontus and his co-driver Emil Axelsson have kept busy. Just a few weeks ago, they made their debut with ŠKODA’s new Fabia R5 in the WRC 2 category at Rally Portugal. They ended up third and got another podium finish as well as a nice warm-up for this upcoming challenge.
“Just like the two previous APRC rallies, everything is new to me this time too, even though I’m starting to get used to being in this part of the world – and the time difference” said Pontus with a smile. “So far we have had great results and it obviously feels good to top the leaderboard, but we are almost half way into the season and the competition gets harder. We expect to be chased this weekend so we have to focus on the task, do our best and not bother too much about what is happening around us. I have heard a lot of good things about Rally Queensland and the enthusiastic fans in the area so this is guaranteed to be fun.”
Pontus began his APRC season with a victory in New Zealand, followed it up with a second place in New Caledonia and he now has a grip of the championship lead. He has 70 points overall, three points ahead of Gill’s 67 and Leyraud has 41 points going into the third round.
Queensland is the second largest state in Australia and the state capital is Brisbane. It is also the area of the country with the most hours of sun and even now that it is winter, one can expect mostly sunny days with temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius. The competition begins on Friday with a start ceremony in Caloundra, which is located 90 km north of Brisbane and is the southernmost community on the Sunshine Coast in south-east Queensland. The town of Imbil, another 70 km to the north, is hosting the service park.
International Rally of Queensland includes 18 special stages, of which ten runs on Saturday and the remaining eight on Sunday. The surface is gravel and the shortest stage is 4.16 km, the longest 28.49 km and the other stages are about 15 km each. Starting around seven o’clock in the morning, there are two long days of competition that awaits the crews before the finish on Sunday.