EUROPEAN champion Jan Kopecky had never seen an Australian rally road before last Wednesday, but he had no trouble streaking to a comfortable lead on day one of the International Rally of Queensland in Imbil.
Czech driver Kopecky and co-driver Pavel Dresler won six of the day's 10 competitive stages, totalling 118.6km on fast but challenging gravel roads in the Mary Valley forests around Imbil.
A tarmac-surface specialist in Europe, Kopecky said he had expected to be at a disadvantage to experienced Indian teammate Gaurav Gill and would have to work hard for success - but the threat disappeared suddenly on the fourth stage when Gill's Skoda Fabia S2000 crashed spectacularly.
Pushing hard to defend his 2013 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, Gill won the first and fourth stages, but 5km into the New Million stage he felt a suspension link break before the car lurched right on a left-hand corner, speared down a bank and stopped 30m down a slope after two rollovers.
Gill and co-driver Glenn Macneall were not hurt, but had to retire their badly damaged car.
It will be repaired or replaced for the fourth round of the APRC in Malaysia.
Kopecky said Gill's departure would not ease the pressure to be first across the finish line at the Imbil Showgrounds this afternoon.
Crews face a further six stages and 85.69 competitive kilometres, starting just before 8.30am.
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