Home roads a big advantage. The leading local contender at Caloundra's Falken Tyres Rally Queensland predicts the event will be tougher than ever, and the established top teams could be in for a shock come June 14-15. Falken Mitsubishi driver...
Home roads a big advantage.
The leading local contender at Caloundra's Falken Tyres Rally Queensland predicts the event will be tougher than ever, and the established top teams could be in for a shock come June 14-15.
Falken Mitsubishi driver Steven Shepheard says that with competition between works and privateer teams tougher than ever, it could be local knowledge of the tight and twisting forestry tracks of the Mary Valley that sort out a winner for the second round of the Australian Rally Championship.
"I think I'll still be at an advantage because it is held on my home roads and I understand the flow of the roads a bit better than what you do when you are away," Shepheard said.
"So even if it is a road that you haven't seen before, you still get a bit of an idea over the other guys what it is going to be like."
Although the rally course is compact in design, at 245 competitive kilometres, it is one of the longest in the Australian Championship.
A highlight this year will be four tarmac stages on Saturday, with a combined distance of around 9 km.
The 2.34 km Mitsubishi stage around the township of Imbil will provide a new challenge for the crews.
"It's a bit of a struggle doing them on rally tyres, but it is good fun, it's good to get off the road every now and then,"Shepheard said.
He also said the four tarmac stages would be a bonus for the fans.
"Unlike say the V8 Supercars that really hug the road and do the correct lines, us cowboys seem to throw the cars into the corners, get them sideways and have a good time!"
The Hella Hillclimb, concluding Saturday competition, also will be a major drawcard, with around 3500 spectators expected to view the action on the tight and twisty Gyndier Drive at Tewantin, near Noosa.
Once again this year, competitors will take to the hill twice in quick succession.
Shepheard and navigator Dominic Corkeron were one of the few privateer crews from the east coast to take on the Forest Rally in Western Australia at the end of March.
Although slowed by drive shaft breakages, their pace was still impressive enough to place them in the top ten at the end of the first heat. The pace of the Evo 6 Mitsubishi Lancer was on show to 15,000 spectators at the opening two special stages, where they finished second quickest to Neal Bates in the factory Toyota Corolla.
In the time between rallies, much work has gone on behind the scenes to ensure a fast car in Caloundra's Falken Tyres Rally Queensland,, including the fitting of a new turbocharger.
One ace up Shepheard's sleeve is a strong tyre package, after off-season testing of sponsor Falken Tyres' products.
Three times Shepheard has was won the Queensland Group N Championship and he hopes this experience will help him show the way.
"Simon Evans I think will be the one to watch and Ed Ordynski, to be honest.
"Cody (Crocker) and Dean (Herridge) have been sitting out the front by themselves, and there are a few guys who are really desperate to show them that they are capable of doing the outright times.
"Juha Khangas has also been setting some cracker jack times down there in Canberra, but I'd like to think that being our home event, we can give them a shake as well."
The rally kicks off on June 13, with a wine, food and jazz festival at Caloundra's Kings Beach planned to send the field on its way.