There were more officials than rally enthusiasts but there was no lack of enthusiasm. Standing at the edge of the gravel path, they waited for the cars to hurl down the track and take a right turn to the finish line of the fourth stage of the FIA-Asia Pacific Rally Championship of Queensland.
As the hills of Imbil came alive with the roar of the engines, the cameras came out. After all, it was a matter of a few seconds. As Team MRF's Esapekka Lappi drove by, loud cheers erupted. "Oh! that was fantastic," was the universal statement. Closely following the 22-year-old Finn was teammate Gaurav Gill.
"It was disappointing," Gill said at the end of the day. Well, Gill and co-driver Glenn MacNeall came down the track perfectly. But what should have been an easy turn, turned into a disaster.
The car slid into a ditch and chaos followed. Officials ran to help, MacNeall got out and finally, after losing precious seconds, MRF's second car was on its way. And the worst part - Gill was also plagued by an early puncture.
"A mistake after so many years," lamented Gill, who leads the APRC drivers' standings. "I've made that turn so many times over the years but today was just unbelievable."
Lappi in lead
At the end of the 12th stage on Saturday, Lappi had a two-minute lead over his teammate. After a tremendous victory at New Caledonia, Gill, who won at Queensland in 2010, was hoping for a repeat.
"At least I made up some time in the afternoon (where he got the better of Lappi twice in the reruns). But, tomorrow is a new day so let's see how it goes," said the optimist, gazing at his Skoda Fabia S2000 being serviced at the end of a tough day.
The writer's trip has been sponsored by MRF.