With just three points separating Gaurav Gill and Pontus Tidemand, stakes will be high for both the Team MRF Skoda drivers in the International Rally of Queensland, the third round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship.
Riding high on confidence following his victories in the second round in New Caledonia, and the second round of the Indian Rally Champion in Nashik last weekend, Gill who has 67 points, hopes for a repeat of 2010, when he scored his maiden win in Queensland.
Gill however, has his task cut out against his team-mate Tidemand, who finished third in last month's Rally of Portugal of the World Rally Championship in the WRC2 class.
With more than 3000 km of rallying under his belt, Tidemand has plenty of competition miles behind him. But Gill, 33, has the advantage of experience and familiarity with the super-fast tracks through the forests in the Sunshine Coast.
The International Rally of Queensland will see the competitors covering a distance of 227 km over Saturday and Sunday around the towns of Kenilworth and Imbil.
Both the drivers have driven vastly different kinds of machinery since the last round in New Caledonia. Gill, en route to victory in Nashik, drove a diesel-powered Mahindra XUV 500, while Tidemand clinched a podium in Portugal driving a factory-prepared Skoda Fabia WRC 2 spec car.
But for Gill, the switch from a right-hand FWD drive SUV to the left-hand, all-wheel drive Skoda Fabia Super 2000 remains a bigger leap of faith.
"I am aware of the challenges that lie ahead. Pontus has been at the sharp end of the competition since the last round in New Caledonia. He has a lot more miles under his belt and even bagged a podium in the Rally of Portugal. So that makes my job even harder. But, like I have said before, I perform better under pressure. So it's game on," said Gill.
For the third round of the championship, Gill's Skoda Fabia Super 2000 will get a new engine, while both the cars will run new gearboxes. "We tested the car on Wednesday, but it was a very wet day and the tracks were muddy. In these conditions, it's difficult to get the real feedback. So we will find out where we stand only in the shakedown on Friday," said Gill.
Team MRF Skoda is fielding a third car that will be driven by New Caledonian, Jean-Louis Leyraud. After a podium lockout in the previous round, the team is looking forward to a repeat performance. After two rounds, Team MRF sits pretty at the top of the championship table with 178 points.