Two more top international drivers are heading for Rally Queensland on the Sunshine Coast in three weeks’ time, following news of a last-minute decision by India’s MRF rally team to contest the 2009 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC).

Katsuhiko Taguchi from Japan and Guarav Gill from India will drive Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions in the 8-10 May event, according to a weekend statement by Anthony Rodricks, head of motorsport for MRF, India’s leading tyre manufacturer.

The entry list of leading international and Australian drivers is growing, with organisers also expecting two-time Asia Pacific Champion Cody Crocker and new teammate Emma Gilmour in the latest model Subarus, New Zealanders Brian Green and Haydon Paddon, New Caledonian champion Jean-Louis Leyraud and possibly others from Japan, New Zealand and China.

Australians including Simon and Eli Evans, Glen Raymond, Ryan Smart, Nathan Quinn, Steven Shepheard, Matt Van Tuinen and Brendan Reeves will be out to show they are capableof matching the internationals.

Rally Queensland will be round two of the FIA Asia Pacific Championship, round four of the Australian Rally Championship and rounds two and three of the Queensland Rally Championship.

It will be based at Marcoola Beach, with pre-event activities at Nambour and two days’ of forestry gravel competitive special stages around Imbil in the lush Mary Valley hinterland, just north of the coast.

The event effectively will be the start of the championship, with MRF and depending champions Motor Image from Singapore both missing last weekend’s first round in New Caledonia, in which none of the APRC contenders made it to the finish. The rally was cancelled at half-distance because of a tropical cyclone.

The participation of 2003 and 2005 APRC champions MRF in this year’s series had seemed far from certain.

Their appearance at Rally Queensland will be a major boost for the event organisers and promises to be a highlight for spectators.

The delay was due to Taguchi’s loss of support from Mitsubishi Ralliart, which had co-sponsored him since 2003, but Mr Rodricks confirmed his inclusion at the weekend.

“Taguchi has shown considerable improvement over the years and the team management felt his participation would strength the team’s chances,” he said.

Taguchi, who has also competed in the World, Malaysian, British and Australian Rally Championships during a 15-year career, will be co-driven at Rally Queensland by Australian Glenn Macneall.

Guarav Gill, regarded as one of India’s brightest rally stars, will be co-driven by Queenslander Mark Stacey.

This is the first year Rally Queensland has run as an international event, though it has been an Australian championship round for 41 years.
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