Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution driver Niall McShea has maintained his second position in Rally Australia today, round six of the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship [PCWRC].

The Ulsterman's consistently quick pace has seen him pull away from chasing rivals and he is now within striking distance of overnight leader and Subaru driver Martin Rowe and his first world victory in this category.

The second leg of Rally Australia saw just 38 of the original 49 crews leave a sunny Perth early this morning for a compact leg around Mundaring, east of the city. The route, once again based around the service park at Jarrahdale, covered two loops of four stages before returning to Perth for the final two runs over the new super special stage at Gloucester Park.

In total, 10 stages and 124 competitive kilometers over faster and narrower roads lay in wait and the tricky nature of Western Australia's stages proved too much for a number of the crews, leaving just six contenders remaining in the Production Car World Rally Championship. Bright skies and warm sunshine may have provided pleasant conditions and made the surface more consistent, however the notoriously slippery gravel is at its most treacherous in the dry, leaving no margin for error whatsoever.

Niall McShea has driven superbly throughout the day and the Ulsterman has been second fastest in no fewer than five of the eight forestry stages. His achievement is all the more impressive being that this is his first attempt at one of the World Championship's toughest rallies.

"We were getting well beaten to start with yesterday, but then I realised that our tyres were much too hard," commented McSeha, who set fastest time in the final super special stage this evening. "We're going a lot better now we've changed and it's really good fun, but we've got to be careful too. We really need a finish here".

Reigning Production Car World Rally Champion Karamjit Singh has climbed into third position, but the Malaysian is still someway adrift of McShea.

Junior World Champion Daniel Sol? has also put in a fine performance, fighting back from early mishaps in his Lancer Evolution to climb to fifth place in the World Championship classification. The Spaniard dominated the afternoon with a string of four fastest stage times in the forests and rounded the day off quickest in the first super special.

"Yesterday was very difficult for me, but today the car has been fine and I think I am starting to understand this rally a little bit now", he stated. "We have been fastest sometimes, which is encouraging".

Sixth position is held by Sweden's Joakim Roman in another Lancer Evolution. Mitsubishi driver Marcos Ligato was one of the sensations yesterday, but the Argentinean was forced out during today's leg with mechanical problems. He was joined on the sidelines by Subaru's Toshihiro Arai, the Japanese driver now set to lose his lead in the PCWRC standings.

The final leg of Rally Australia takes the remaining crews south-west of Perth to the Sotico pine plantation, more famously known as 'Bunnings'. These stages provide some of the most spectacular action in the World Championship; their roller-coaster jumps and watersplashes attracting spectators in their thousands. However, with a forecast of steady rain and a fast-moving cold front, the action is far from over. In total, the leg covers four stages and 117.11 competitive kilometers, before the winners reach the finish in Perth at 16:30 hrs [GMT +8].

Picture credit: Mitsubishi.



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