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Drivers from at least 10 countries and including two world champions promise an unprecedented battle for the Brakes Direct International Rally of Queensland on the Sunshine Coast next month.

Incorporating rounds of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) and the Bosch Australian Rally Championship (BARC), plus competitions for Classic rally cars and other categories, the 25-27 May event is expected to attract up to 100 vehicles to tackle nearly 230 kilometres of competitive stages on the Sunshine Coast and in the hinterland Mary Valley.

The biggest battle is likely to be between the APRC’s two leading outfits, Proton from Malaysia and MRF from India.

The British-run, factory-backed Proton team is defending a string of 2011 titles with its champion driver Alister McRae, of Scotland, and new recruit Per-Gunnar Andersson, of Sweden.

Andersson, a two-time Junior World Rally Champion and competitor in the current WRC, has taken the seat of Australian international Chris Atkinson, who made a surprise switch to MRF and a new Skoda S2000 car after last season.

Atkinson won round one in New Zealand and will be keen to add his home rally to his career record, although rivals will include his own teammate, the 2010 Queensland winner and Indian Rally Champion Guarav Gill.

Other drivers and co-drivers will come from France, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Belgium, Malaysia and Japan.

A highlight of round three of the BARC is due to be the return of the driver considered by many to be the fastest in Australian rallying, four-time champion Simon Evans.

After a year out of the championship, Evans will debut a new Mazda2 with the aim of stealing the spoils on his favourite rally from younger brother Eli, with Mark Pedder a member of the high-profile factory Honda Jazz team.

Simon Evans’ former nemesis and team boss Neal Bates will star in his new Classic 1980 Toyota Celica – which in the veteran’s hands has proved as fast as some modern cars – while ex-internationals Cody Crocker and Michael Guest will headline the new Side-by-Side series for two-seat quad vehicles.

Brakes Direct International Rally of Queensland Event Director Errol Bailey is confident the line-up of high-quality vehicles is the best in memory and will offer ticket holders excellent value for money.

“We’ll have some of the best talent in international rallying and cars identical to those in the current world championship. Queensland has never seen an event of this calibre,” he said.

“Add to that roads that are renowned among the most challenging in the country and we have an event no-one should miss.”


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