Rally drivers race ready
TEAM MRF manager Lane Heenan has heaped the pressure on his Proton rivals, declaring Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae as the outright favourites for this weekend’s International Rally of Queensland.
Proton’s Chris Atkinson, who is based on the Gold Coast, is one of the big challengers for the title.
He was in red-hot form in the Imbil forest last year before getting bogged.
Heenan – the team manager of 2010 winner Gaurav Gill and Japan’s Katsu Taguchi – said Atkinson’s “home ground” knowledge could prove to be the difference over the weekend.
“It’s his home and he went really well here last year,” Heenan said yesterday while his drivers were doing reconnaissance.
“They’ve improved the car a hell of a lot since last year and Chris knows the roads as well as anyone and will be hard to beat.”
Atkinson won 11 of 18 stages last year, but it was India’s Gill who took out the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship race.
Gill, who drives a Mitsubishi Evolution, finished second to Atkinson recently in the first round of this year’s championship in Malaysia and Heenan said he was expecting his top driver to feature in the standings again this year.
“We’re looking pretty good and things are under control. We go from event to event and have to do maintenance when we get here, so we’ve had from Sunday to get the car up to scratch,” he said.
“It’s a relatively new car and we’re still sorting out what little bits make it better.
“We’re trying to get it dialled in for the roads at the moment and from what they see today we’ll decide on some final touches.
“All going well, we’ll be having a clean run and hopefully be up on the podium at the end of it with two cars.”
Heenan described Gill as the form driver of last year’s championship and said he was unlucky not to take out the title.
“He drove consistently, and realistically he was the fastest car last year. He just had a few hiccups at some events. He was unlucky not to win the championship from Taguchi, but in saying that you can’t take anything away from Katsu,” he said.
Rally action revved up at the Caloundra Rally Shootout last night and continues in the State Forest around Imbil today and tomorrow.
TICKET PRICES: (General admission tickets discounted 20% until May 9)
Friday/Saturday/Sunday May 13-15 Event Super Pass (All General Admission areas, all weekend) Adult $35Child (under 14) $10
Saturday, May 14 – Mary Valley Forestry Stages (day)
General Admission: adult $15, child (under 14) $5
Caloundra Rally Shootout (night) General Admission: adult $20, child (under 14) $5, Party Deck: (includes two-course dinner, drinks, superior viewing, parking) adult $135, table of 10 $1215 (pay for 9, get 1 free).
Sunday, May 15 – Mary Valley Forestry Stages (day)
General Admission: adult $15, child (under 14) $5.
Online tickets and spectator information available at www.rallyqueensland.com.au