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Queenslanders Steven Shepheard and John McCarthy are looking to up the ante at Repco Rally Australia next weekend aboard the OZ Tec Suspension Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10, after finishing the Australian Rally Championship on a high note.

Shepheard stormed home in the second heat of the Sprint Auto Parts Rally SA to be classified fourth outright and sixth in the championship, with the team now hoping further developments will result in more pace at Rally Australia.

On the back of the team's recent performances, the crew has been seeded with the Group N world championship contenders, with Shepheard starting on the road ahead of such Australian rallying luminaries as Cody Crocker, Neal Bates and Eli Evans.

In the month since Rally SA, the GSA Wholesale Suspension Rally Team has been busy preparing the car, not only for Group N specifications, but also carrying out further development work on the car's suspension.

"The car was originally built to Group N specifications, we have only had to change the exhaust, engine restrictor and retune the engine, so it was a fairly easy task," said Shepheard.

"World Rally Group N spec cars also run on a slightly different tyre, so we have done some testing to tune the suspension to suit.

"At Rally SA the car was still fairly nervous, but we are constantly making steps in the right direction to make the car work to the best of its potential, it's all very positive."

Although Rally Australia may start on Thursday evening, the rally starts in earnest this weekend, with the set up of the service park, before testing, recce and a shakedown all to take place before the cars get officially waved away.

Even though Shepheard is based in Brisbane, he has never rallied on the roads in the Northern Rivers Region of New South Wales, and will be on the same learning curve as the other 45 crews in the super competitive field.

"The rally organizers have given us a DVD showing the sort of roads we can expect, and there is a real mixed bag out there.

"There's some really fast and open bits, some tight and twisty parts as well as some rougher stuff.

"It will be very spectacular to see the WRC cars on those roads, but on the fast bits you will have to be really on your game."

The rally will be based only a short drive from Brisbane and the Gold Coast, with a focal point being the Super Special Stages on the streets of Murwillumbah and the forests around Kyogle.

"Hopefully everyone will realise how close it is to home, it will be a bit like the 'SuperGP in the forest'," said Shepheard.

"I think even a lot of people who are not necessarily interested in motorsport will come out and have a look, and in years to come it will be a must see event.

"I'm really looking forward to rallying in front of a big crowd again, it's been too long a wait."

Repco Rally Australia kicks off on Thursday evening with the first of three nightly Super Special stages to be held in Murwillumbah on the Speed on Tweed circuit, with further information on the event available at www.rallyaustralia.com.

The GSA Wholesale Suspension Rally Team would like to thank OZ Tec Suspension, King Springs, Accord Body Works, Exedy Clutch, CES Racing Systems, Albins Off Road Gear and Mitsubishi Ralliart for their continued support in season 2009. 
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