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The International Rally of Queensland has had an action packed first heat in the forests around Imbil today with the lead changing five times amongst the Bosch Australian Rally Championship competitors and four times in the Asia Pacific Championship.

The Bosch ARC competition has been a see saw battle amongst the contenders with overnight leader Mark Pedder driving a Mitsubishi Evo 9 relinquishing top spot in this morning's first forestry stage to fellow Mitsubishi driver Steven Shepheard before Justin Dowell staged a massive fightback in the next stage to go to the top of the leaderboard.

Dowel had lost almost 20 seconds stalling on the start line of the first stage on Friday night but powered through the Saturday morning stages to recover the lost time. However his glory was short lived with series leader Ryan Smart taking the number one spot on special stage five only to have Mark Pedder scream back into the lead on the next competitive stage.

Far from being beaten Dowell took a string of fastest times during the afternoon stages and despite sliding wide and severely damaging the back of the black Evo 9 he was able to finish the heat in top spot with a handy advantage over Mark Pedder

Dowel finished the day with a 6.8 second lead over Pedder with Smart in third a further 16.3 seconds in arrears after the final stage of today's 10 scheduled special stages

"It was a tough day I thought we were done for when we clipped the bank late in the day but we were able to hang in there and take the win, now the boys have a big repair job to get us right for heat two," said Justin Dowel.

Overnight APRC leader Chris Atkinson looked to have a firm grip on the rally in his works Proton S2000 only to be forced out with an engine problem after drowning the engine computer in a deep-water splash on today's first forestry stage.

The former Subaru World Championship rally driver was clearly disappointed by the problem after suffering a similar fate in the Queensland event last year.

Atkinson took the Proton to victory in the opening APRC round in Malaysia last month and had hoped to do the same in his home event, but will have a chance to challenge for heat two when he will restart under Super Rally Rules.

Japanese driver Katsu Taguchi led for a stage before Australian wild card entry Nathan Quinn took a succession of fast times to grab the lead at the lunch break in his Mitsubishi Evo 9.

Quinn continue to hold the lead until two stages from home when Scotsman Alister McRae in the second works Proton took the lead which he was able to consolidate finishing the day 1.3seconds ahead of Indian Mitsubishi driver Gaurev Gill while Quinn had to settle for third just 8ths second behind with former British Rally Champion Mark Higgins in fourth another 12.1 seconds further while Taguchi was fifth.

Rallyschool.com.au Junior Australian Rally Challenge contender Greg Latham and co-driver Stephanie Booth were airlifted to hospital after a massive crash on the opening forestry stage near Imbil, destroying their Subaru Impreza in the process. Latham is in Gympie base hospital with ankle injuries while Booth was transported to Brisbane with a suspected broken pelvis both are in a satisfactory condition.

The rally will head back from the forests around Imbil in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland this evening for a further two runs over the tarmac spectator stage at Caloundra tonight with the final heat to get underway at first light on Sunday morning.

The International Rally of Queensland is round two of both the APRC and the Bosch ARC
 
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