A thrilling Coffs WRC fi­nale

The field is set, the track is ready, and this year’s event prom­ises to be a thriller

The Coffs Coast Advocate - - KENNARDS HIRE RALLY AUSTRALIA -

THE field is set and a 320-kilo­me­tre course in prime con­di­tion awaits a flat-out fi­nale to the FIA World Rally Cham­pi­onship at Ken­nards Hire Rally Aus­tralia this week­end.

The four-day thriller of­fi­cially start­ing on Thurs­day, Novem­ber 16, will see 78 crews and cars, in­clud­ing 18 internationals, tackle 21 stages on forestry and ru­ral roads north and south of the Coffs Har­bour event base.

Wrap­ping up the most ex­cit­ing and un­pre­dictable WRC sea­son in more than a decade, the 25th Rally Aus­tralia will wel­come newly con­firmed five-time world cham­pion Sébastien Ogier atop a list of 11 of the planet’s fastest rally driv­ers in out­right con­tention.

Nine of the 11 are World Rally win­ners and all are driv­ing the spec­tac­u­larly fast new-era Ford, Hyundai, Toy­ota and Citroën cars that have turned this year’s com­pe­ti­tion on its head.

The internationals will be joined by 58 crews con­test­ing fi­nals of the Aus­tralian Rally Cham­pi­onship and New South Wales and Queens­land State se­ries, al­to­gether mak­ing Ken­nards Hire Rally Aus­tralia the year’s big­gest and fastest event of its kind.

While M-Sport Ford pi­lot Ogier will be freed of cham­pi­onship con­sid­er­a­tions for a no-holds at­tack on Rally Aus­tralia, Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) and Ott Tä­nak (M-Sport) prom­ise an in­tense con­test for sec­ond place in the se­ries.

The CAMS Aus­tralian Rally Cham­pi­onship will also fea­ture a show­down, with de­fend­ing ti­tle-holder Molly Tay­lor hop­ing to hold off close ri­val and lo­cal hero Nathan Quinn.

Rally Aus­tralia chair­man Ben Rains­ford says ev­ery­thing is primed for an ex­cit­ing event.

“We’re ready to host an event of true World Cham­pi­onship qual­ity,” he said.

“All-new roads on Fri­day and up­dates to the itin­er­ary on Satur­day and Sun­day hold a chal­lenge wor­thy of these amaz­ing driv­ers and their cars – and plenty of thrills for spec­ta­tors.

“The Des­ti­na­tion NSW Su­per Special Stage has some new fea­tures and the day­time stages are look­ing beau­ti­ful af­ter re­cent rains. State forests com­prise around 75 per cent of the stages and the Forestry Cor­po­ra­tion of NSW has put enor­mous ef­fort into pre­sent­ing the roads and the spec­ta­tor ar­eas in great con­di­tion.

“We’re proud to be wel­com­ing back the sec­ond-most suc­cess­ful driver in WRC his­tory, Sébastien Ogier. Seb won his fifth FIA World Cham­pi­onship less than a fort­night ago – in­ci­den­tally, on the same day Lewis Hamil­ton won his fourth in For­mula 1 – and I’ve no doubt he’ll want to re­in­force his supremacy with vic­tory here.

“That won’t be easy. Nine driv­ers line up with World Rally wins to their credit and with an in­cred­i­ble seven dif­fer­ent win­ners alone this sea­son.

“Who’s to say there won’t be an eighth on the Coffs podium on Sun­day-week?

“Any­thing can hap­pen. Be­ing the fi­nal round, this is every­one’s last chance for a re­sult.

“Flat-out is sure to be the strat­egy for every­one.”

The high-fly­ing WRC ac­tion starts with the first special stage, Pil­bara 1, at 8.13am on Fri­day.

Af­ter the fi­nal, live-tele­vised stage from Wed­ding Bells State For­est at 1.18pm on Sun­day, crews will re­turn to Coffs Har­bour for the of­fi­cial podium cer­e­mony at 3.30pm.

Ded­i­cated spec­ta­tor parks will of­fer ac­ces­si­ble, com­fort­able and safe view­ing ev­ery day. Self-print tick­ets re­main on sale up to the event at tick­etek.com or can be bought at the gate.

Ken­nards Hire Rally Aus­tralia this year will fea­ture an ex­panded pro­gram of free pub­lic at­trac­tions de­signed to give fans a taste of rally at­mos­phere wher­ever they are.

The pop­u­lar Rally Show and cer­e­mo­nial start on Thurs­day and podium pre­sen­ta­tion on Sun­day in the Coffs Har­bour main street will be com­ple­mented by a packed line-up of en­ter­tain­ment from Thurs­day to Sun­day in the com­peti­tors’ ser­vice park at C.ex Coffs In­ter­na­tional Sta­dium.


AC­TION: Spec­tac­u­larly fast new-era Ford, Hyundai, Toy­ota and Citroën cars will be on track at the FIA World Rally Cham­pi­onship 2017.

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