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The fastest drivers from several countries will fight for victory when the International Rally of Queensland takes its main event under lights to the Nambour Showgrounds on the Sunshine Coast in July.

Competitors expected to come from Malaysia, India, New Caledonia, China, Japan, New Zealand and Australia will tackle a new Super Special stage course at the showgrounds on the first night of the 12-14 July rally.

The spectator highlight to open the weekend will take more than 50 crews and cars on a high-speed, two-kilometre sprint around the showground precinct, including circuits of the main ring and a thrilling jump.

Car displays, fireworks, market stalls, children’s rides and food and drink outlets also are planned for a big night of family entertainment.

The International Rally of Queensland, one of the Sunshine Coast’s biggest annual sporting fixtures, will host rounds of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship, Australian Classic Rally Series and other categories.

The Nambour Super Special Stage was announced by rally Director Errol Bailey after a track inspection yesterday by four-time Australian Rally Champion Neal Bates and top Queensland driver Ryan Smart.

Mr Bailey said the Nambour Super Special Stage was designed as an all-weather, night-time arena-style attraction for spectators and as a true test for drivers.

“Every year we strive to present the most exciting entertainment for spectators and a contest worthy of its international status for drivers,” he said.

“We’re grateful Neal Bates has given his time to travel from Canberra to inspect the showgrounds. Neal’s the most respected competitor in Australian rallying and his advice on how we can make the best of the stage is invaluable. Ryan also brings a valuable perspective as one of Australia’s hottest young driving talents, who will be guaranteed to put on a show for his home crowd.

“Nambour Showgrounds, especially with the inclusion of a jump and its all-weather ability to accommodate off-track attractions, is an ideal venue for the Super Special Stage, which will provide a curtainraiser to the weekend’s forestry-stage action around Imbil and Pomona.

“The Showgrounds are close to the Bruce Highway. Along with the early-evening timing of the event, this will make it easy to attend for fans from all over the region and even from Brisbane.

“With our annual top-teams shakedown and media and VIP preview in the morning, the nighttime Showgrounds Super Special Stage and other local community activities we’re hoping to see organised, Friday will be rally-day in Nambour and we hope there will be a real buzz about the town.”

Bates, who is expected to contest the annual classic rally category in his championship-winning 1980 Toyota Celica, said he was looking forward to returning to Queensland.

“The Super Special Stage is based on the pre-rally shakedown stage we have used for several years, but with a few tweaks to make more entertaining for spectators and more challenging for drivers,” he said.

“The final details of the course still have to be set, but it looks good. Best of all, spectators should be able to see the cars pass at really close quarters and get a real experience of the excitement of rallying.

“I’m looking forward to it. My Celica is pretty quick and I’m sure there will be plenty of fans who will want to see how much of a challenge we can put up to the latest overseas cars.”

Tickets to the Nambour Super Special Stage are expected to go on sale in June.
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