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AUSTRALIA’S fastest forest racers resumed preparations today for Coates Rally Queensland, checking cars and 200 kilometres of course roads before a weekend of punishing action.

Many of the event’s 64 entrants left at first light from rally headquarters at Novotel Twin Waters Resort on the Sunshine Coast to conduct a full day’s slow reconnaiscance on the Imbil forest stages that will host round three of the NEC Computers Australian Rally Championship.

The Coates Rally Queensland roads are some of the most challenging in the country - many are narrow, tight and hilly - making it a necessity to have accurate “pace“ notes to guide drivers at high speed.

Event Director Errol Bailey said even modest rainfall over the past week would improve road conditions and the scene was set for another exciting rallly.

“The nature of Rally Queensland ensures it is never a walk-over by one team and I expect this round will be a real fight among the front-runners,” Mr Bailey said.

“We have three factory-backed teams and a host of very fast privateers such as Dean Herridge, Darren Windus and Stewart Reid, all of whom are capable of pulling a surprise.”

The rally lost one of its most promising competitors during the week when China’s national rally champion Xu Lang withdrew after being injured in a motorcycle accident in his country.

Exciting young South Australian Jack Monkhouse, who was seeded sixth in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, also withdrew due to a work injury. Leading New South Wales driver Kelvin Croker has taken over the Monkhouse entry and will start 12th, with Xu Lang’s intended co-driver Dale Moscatt calling the notes.

Top 10 teams including series leader Simon Evans, in a Toyota, will take part in a shakedown session on a private 1.6 km course tomorrow. Although the times will be unofficial, they could point to which teams are in form on the eve of the rally.

Evans has 73 points after winning round two in Western Australia last month. His Toyota Racing Development team leader Neal Bates sits just five points behind, with leading Subaru privateer Dean Herridge a further 12 points short.
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart's Scott Pedder is fourth ahead of West Australian privateer Darren Windus and both are within striking distance of the series lead.
Pirtek Rally Team Ford's Michael Guest is placed just outside the top 10 and is keen to develop the potential of the Focus car in the team's debut year in the championship.

Coates Rally Queensland will have its official start during open-air celebrations and a display of competing cars at Mooloolaba Beach from 6 pm tomorrow.

From Saturday morning, teams will be based at the main service park at Imbil Showgrounds, from where they will head out to 19 competitive stages before the official finish back at Mooloolaba on Sunday afternoon.

Apart from outright contenders for the Australian Rally Championship and rounds two and three of the City Subaru Queensland Rally Championship, a select group of Classic cars will also entertain the thousands of fans expected at spectator points in the Imbil forest.

The Classics will be flagged away from Imbil Showgrounds on Saturday morning by legendary Queensland driver Jim Reddiex. Among the former Citroen dealer’s many achievements is victory in the 1974 trans-Sahara World Cup Rally and his self-built winning Citroen DS19 will be on hand for the Imbil start.
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