Forecast heavy rain swept the Mary Valley forestry stages after this morning’s loop of four stages, forcing organisers to cancel the afternoon re-run over 61 kilometres. They replaced it with a new section, only 1.2 kms long but sufficient for competitors to complete the minimum total distance needed to qualify for championship points.
Gill’s young German teammate Fabian Kreim denied him a clean-sweep of the weekend, claiming this morning’s opening test. Kreim finished second overall, almost two minutes behind Gill but 45 sec. ahead of Subaru-mounted Mike Young of New Zealand.
Crews in the Asia Pacific, Australian and Queensland championship rounds battled increasingly slippery roads in the Imbil state forest as the unseasonal rain intensified.
“It was quite a challenging rally, quite difficult with the conditions changing all the time,” said Gill, who recorded his second Queensland victory in six years.
“But we got a good set-up in the morning on Saturday and pushed a little bit (to build up the lead).
“The stages were already wet from overnight rain. Now it is pouring completely!”
Kreim said he was glad to reach the finish of only his second gravel rally, while Young recovered strongly from a setback on Saturday morning.
“It is a really good result for us. We made the wrong tyre choice on Saturday morning but it all worked out in the end,” Young said.
“It’s always hard going against the (Skoda) R5 cars, but I think we showed what we’ve got.”
After running in the top three early in the weekend, Australian driver Nathan Quinn saw hopes of a podium result fade with engine and transmission problems. He finished fourth.
Kreim, with co-driver and countryman Frank Christian, won the two-round Pacific Cup.
The FIA Asia Pacific Championship continues at Round 3 in Zhangye, western China, on 6 August.
Round 3 of the Kumho Tyre Australian Rally Championship was won by local Sunshine Coast driver Ryan Smart in a Mitsubishi Lancer.
Smart drove a canny, consistent event, winning only one stage but among the top three on all tests. He finished just more than a minute ahead of fast-rising young Toyota driver Harry Bates, whose result was enough to boost him to the lead in the Australian driver standings.
Tom Wilde of Western Australia was third in a Subaru.
Smart said he was thrilled to win first-time out after returning to competition with long-time co-driver John Allen.
“It has been good - a bit surprised. We’re stoked - thanks for coming,” he told a rain-soaked crowd at the presentation ceremony.
“The morning wasn’t too bad. But we just got to the finish, not taking too many risks. I was happy with my driving, but the intensity was not there due to the rain.”
Former Australian championship leader Simon Evans failed to finish the rally after rolling his Subaru on the third stage this morning. He and co-driver Ben Searcy were unhurt.
Photo Credit: Geoff Ridder
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