(Sports) Skoda teammates to become enemies in Queensland, Australia

(Sports) Skoda teammates to become enemies in Queensland, Australia

SYDNEY, June 11 (Xinhua) -- Two champion teammates tied in the lead for one of the world's most prestigious rally series will go head-to-head next week in the International Rally of Queensland ( IROQ) on the Sunshine Coast, Australia.

Jan Kopecky from the Czech Republic and Gaurav Gill of India will be behind the wheel of identical Skoda Fabia's S2000 cars for Round 3 of the Asia Pacific Championship (APRC), kicking off June 21.

Both drivers scored a win and a second place from the first two rounds in New Zealand and New Caledonia, so with the inevitability that only one will lead after Queensland their rivalry is expected to be intense.

The rally will be staged over two days across more than 240 km of challenging gravel roads in the Mary Valley, after a colorful Ceremonial Start at Kings Beach, Caloundra, on Friday night 20 June.

Kopecky, the current European Rally Champion, and defending Asia Pacific Champion Gill are the fastest stars in a field that also represents China, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia and Australia.

The two drivers will approach the Sunshine Coast event from opposite backgrounds.

Kopecky's phenomenal speed has been proven in the cauldron of the European championship, but has relatively little experience on gravel surfaces, rather than tarmac, and this season is making his first competitive foray outside the northern hemisphere.

"Next is Australia. I've never been there, so a new country, a new rally and we are looking forward to it," Kopecky said after his New Caledonia win last month.

Gill has tackled the fast, tree-lined, forestry tracks around Imbil for the past six years, winning in 2010. In 2013, his consistency over six rounds earned the championship ahead of his teammate -- and Kopecky's predecessor -- Esapekka Lappi of Finland.

Third on the leader-board, Kiwi driver Michael Young is aiming to consolidate his championship chances although on paper his less- powerful Cusco Racing Proton Satria Neo will be unable to challenge the Skodas. He leads the APRC Production Cup over Australian Mark Pedder and India's Sanjay Takale.

Kopecky is in line to beat Young to the APRC Pacific Cup, which concludes in Queensland after three rounds.

The Asia Pacific Rally Championship is gaining traction, held across a spectacularly diverse range of countries, climates, cultures and with a population base of over 2.5 billion people.

Last year saw seven events make-up the championship starting in New Zealand, New Caledonia, Australia and then onto Asia -- Malaysia, Japan, China and Thailand.

Teams and drivers from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are entered driving the latest rally cars from Skoda, Citroen, Proton, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Toyota.

Ending in the bamboo-covered mountains of northern China the 2014 championship is already taking a toll on competitors after insistent tropical rains forced the cancellation of several stages during the two days of May's Rally New Caledonia.