Indian driver Gaurav Gill has staked his claim for another victory in this weekend's International Rally of Queensland after going fastest in an unofficial test session on the Sunshine Coast today.
The 2013 winner put his Czech-run Skoda Fabia R5 car around a short course at the Nambour Showgrounds in 1 minutes 10.5 seconds, more than 3.0 seconds faster than his teammate and nearest rival Fabian Kreim of Germany.
Mike Young of New Zealand, driving a production-class Subaru Impreza, was third-fastest among entrants in Round 2 of the 2016 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, the highlight event of the weekend.
Despite the international presence, some of the fastest times in today's Shakedown test were put down by competitors in the Kumho Australian Rally Championship third round.
Four-time champion and current standings leader Simon Evans (Subaru Impreza) was second-fastest overall, just 1.1 sec. behind Gill. But Molly Taylor (1:11.3, Subaru), Harry Bates (1:12.1), Tom Wilde (1:12.8, Subaru) and Mark Pedder (1:13.1, Peugeot) were all quicker than Kreim, who is contesting only his second loose-surface rally.
After a ceremonial start ceremony tonight in the at Maroochydore Beach on the Sunshine Coast, cars travel to the Imbil state Forest, just north of this popular tourist region to tackle 16 special stages over 240 kilometres, finishing on the podium at the Globe Roamer Service Park in Imbil at 3.30pm on Sunday.
Drivers are expecting greasy conditions on some parts of the course, although today has remained dry after a couple of days' rain.
"We did reconnaissance yesterday and the road was very slippery in places," Gill said.
"Once you go inside the forest it's very slippery.
There's not much room for error when the trees are so close."
Young said damp conditions could favour less powerful cars such as his.
"The faster cars can't use their power as effectively in the wet. It's quite twisty in places here - we'll see if we can keep pace with the Skodas."