Caloundra (Sunshine Coast) - Swedish ace Pontus Tidemand has cruised home in the International Rally of Queensland after main rival and Skoda teammate Gaurav Gill suffered a heartbreaking retirement barely 30 kilometres from the finish at Imbil, north of the Sunshine Coast, today.
Tidemand and co-driver Emil Axelsson finished four minutes ahead of the New Zealand crew of Mike Young and Malcolm Read, in a Subaru, with Subhan Aksa of Indonesia and Italian co-driver Nicola Arena third in a Mitsubishi.
Tidemand’s second win from three rounds of the six-round FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship extended his lead in the drivers’ standings and wrapped up the Pacific Cup competition, which concluded in Queensland.
He now has 108 points in the championship to Gill’s 74, with rounds still to run in Malaysia, Japan and China.
Tidemand and Gill, both driving for the Indian-owned and Skoda factory-backed MRF team, duked it out through Saturday’s 10 stages, winning five apiece but with Gill leading overnight by just 4.6 seconds.
The multiple Indian champion resumed confidently this morning, winning the first of eight stages, but dropped half a minute and the lead to Tidemand over the next four tests in the Imbil State Forest in the Mary Valley.
Nevertheless, second place on the podium appeared to be assured until the engine failed at the 16th stage.
“My engine blew at the start line at the second stage after service. I started and we did barely 20 metres and we got a hole in the engine,” Gill said.
“It was a great battle over the weekend. I thank Pontus - he drove brilliantly and I had a really good time driving flat out over the weekend.”
Tidemand said he was disappointed Gill’s retirement ended their duel.
“It was quite boring that Gaurav retired. I had a good feeling in the last leg and I was looking forward to having the battle, but that’s rally,” the 2013 Junior World Rally Champion added.
“For sure I am happy that we got here and the victory. It is good for me in the championship.
“I enjoyed this country, it is nice to be here. I wanted to stay longer here but we need to go home for preparation before (World Rally Championship) Rally Poland in two weeks.”
Young, who had driven his Japanese CUSCO team Impreza in a lonely third all weekend, inherited second place and one of the best results of his APRC career while Aksa was promoted to third.
“I am over the mood with the result - I didn’t expect that,” Young said.
“I am disappointed for Gaurav Gill. I wasn’t his fault that the car broke but it was a really good result for us, Cusco and EZY Racing.”
Eli Evans and Glenn Weston finished fourth and first Australians in a Citroen DS3 and simultaneously won the third round of the ECB Australian Rally Championship by almost seven minutes form Adrian Coppin and Erin Kelly in another Citroen.
The International Rally of Queensland was run in perfect winter weather for the tourist region – sunny and warm – and the forestry roads recovered after rain earlier in the week.
Of the remaining Asia Pacific entrants, Fuyuhiko Takahashi of Japan retired this morning after rolling his Subaru for a second time and Australian Tony Sullens retired his Citroen with water in the engine.
- FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (Rd 3)
1 Tidemand/Axelsson (Skoda Fabia S2000) Time 2:01:23.8
2 Young/Read (Subaru Impreza WRX) behind first +04:01.2
3 Aksa/Arena (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) +06:37.0
4 Evans/Weston (Citroen DS3 R3) +07:05.6
5 Leyraud/Beckwith (Skoda Fabia S2000) +10:26.8
6 Pedder/Moscatt (Peugeot 208 Maxi) +11:12.0
7 Coppin/Kelly (Citroen DS3 R3) +13:55.1
8 Masumura/Nakagawa (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) +23:26.9
The International Rally of Queensland is supported through Tourism and Events Queensland’s Regional Development Program as part of a growing calendar of events across the State.