Given that it’s now six years on, it seems only fair to finish the story. In 2004, contrary to my woefully tentative prediction, Kawai won the 2004 Sydney International Piano Competition. The driver was John Chen, a New Zealander. He is alive and well and active as a soloist, particularly in Australasia. He is still on the competition circuit, but as a member of the Saguaro Piano Trio.
Steinway won back the title in 2008, with their hell-for-leather driver, Konstantin Shamray, who kept the pit crew very busy retuning and stringing. The people’s prize (and my vote) went to Ran Dank, but I can’t find any reference to what piano he played.