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Mads Ostberg has withdrawn from Coates Hire Rally Australia after a crash on the pre-event recce left him with two cracked ribs.
The Norwegian was injured on Tuesday afternoon after an accident on the Valla stage which also left his co-driver Jonas Andersson with bruising.
After a medical check-up, Østberg was cleared to continue his recce today but subsequently pulled out.
"We continued the recce but it is impossible for us to contest the rally," he explained. "It's a big disappointment because we thought we'd be competitive and fight to reclaim second place in the world championship."
His place in the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi squad will be taken by French rising star Stephane Lefebvre who had travelled to Australia to take part in the recce only.
"I really feel gutted for Mads and Jonas and I hope they will quickly be back on their feet," said Lefebvre. "I have never driven the DS 3 WRC on gravel and am expecting a complicated weekend.
"Normally I prepare for a rally several weeks ahead, watching onboard footage from previous editions to get used to the stages. This won't be possible but all experience is good and I thank Citroën Racing for its confidence," he added.
Lefebvre will be partnered by his co-driver Stéphane Prevot after event stewards granted a request for a driver and co-driver swap. Normally only one element of a WRC entry can be changed.
Team manager Marek Nawarecki said: "All the team is very disappointed for Mads and Jonas. They had the motivation and potential to achieve a very good result here. Without proper preparation we are not expecting that Stephane will be competitive but for him it is a new opportunity to learn. We are asking him to finish the rally to score points in the manufacturers' championship."
Sebastien Ogier survived a lurid two-wheel incident in Thursday morning’s shakedown at Coates Hire Rally Australia before setting fastest time in the warm-up for round 10 of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Series leader Ogier, who can secure his third consecutive world title this weekend, tipped his Volkswagen Polo R high onto two wheels at the opening corner of his first pass through the 4.98km Hydes Creek test.
He reacted quickly to prevent the car rolling and then went fastest by 1.1sec in his fourth and final run.
“It was a little stunt moment on two wheels!” joked Ogier. “It was a long hairpin right and I was actually too slow going into the bend because I braked too early. I was too far on the inside and the bank lifted the car onto two wheels.
“Luckily I had the reflexes to open the steering in the other direction and put the car back on four wheels and spin it through 360 degrees. It wouldn’t have had big consequences if we had rolled because it was a slow corner, but I’m always happier when I bring the car back in perfect shape,” he added.
Team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen was second, having been fastest until Ogier’s final run, and Jari-Matti Latvala completed a 1-2-3 for Volkswagen a further half second behind.
Kris Meeke (DS 3) and Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20) were fourth and fifth, with Dani Sordo (Hyundai i20) and Ott Tanak (Ford Fiesta RS) tied in sixth.
Earlier in the week Tanak was one of four drivers to receive surfing tuition from multiple Australian Ironwoman champion Courtney Hancock. The Estonian returned the favour by strapping Hancock (below) into his co-driver’s seat for a high-speed run through shakedown.
Dani Sordo won the first two speed tests at Coates Hire Rally Australia on Friday morning to lead from Hyundai team-mate Hayden Paddon.
The Spaniard took advantage of a low start position on roads covered by a thick layer of slippery gravel to go fastest in Utungun by 0.7sec. He was also quickest in Bakers Creek by 1.6sec from Kiwi Paddon to lead in his i20 by 3.2sec.
Sordo described his morning as ‘perfect’, while Paddon said he drove cautiously through the second test to ensure his soft Michelin tyres were in premium condition for the fourth and longest stage of the morning.
Kris Meeke was 5.4sec off the lead after a top three time through Bakers Creek in Citroen’s DS 3 with Ott Tanak fourth in a Ford Fiesta RS. While most drivers opted for soft rubber all round, the Estonian bucked the trend with hard tyres on the front and soft on the rear.
“We tried to do something different. The balance felt a bit strange under braking but it was OK,” said Tanak.
The early starters struggled in the conditions, sweeping the gravel to leave a cleaner and faster line for those behind. Road opener and championship leader Sebastien Ogier was eighth, 13.1sec off the lead, with Jari-Matti Latvala two places and 3.0sec ahead.
Andreas Mikkelsen was a surprise second in Utungun to head his two Volkswagen colleagues in fifth, the Norwegian complaining that dust was coming into his Polo R.
Kris Meeke took the lead of Coates Hire Rally Australia after breaking Dani Sordo’s run of stage victories to win Friday morning’s final test.
Sordo completed a hat-trick by beating Meeke through Northbank. But the Ulsterman topped the times in today’s longest stage to head the Spaniard by 3.3sec as drivers returned to Coffs Harbour for service.
“We’ve had a good rhythm,” said Meeke. “We had a bit of a decision with tyre choice. If you’re first on the road then it’s obvious, but if you’re sixth as we are then it’s more complicated. You have better conditions from the sweeping ahead, but a cleaner line offers more grip and the wear is higher.”
Hyundai’s Sordo had enjoyed a perfect morning but was 11.2sec slower than Meeke’s DS 3 and said: “We had a problem with the downshift and stalled at a hairpin. I went down through the gears but the car was still in third and I stalled the engine. I dropped four or five seconds.”
Hayden Paddon was fifth in both tests and is 7.0sec off the lead in his Hyundai i20. He regretted his choice of soft compound tyres and promised more was to come. “I’ll change the set-up, fit new tyres and start to push because at the moment we’re just driving,” he said.
Volkswagen trio Andreas Mikkelsen, Jari-Matti Latvala and Sebastien Ogier filled the next three places with 1.5sec covering them. The final stage contained less loose gravel and they did not suffer the same early running order disadvantage encountered in the previous tests.
Ogier was just 0.4sec behind Meeke’s stage-winning time having failed to break into the top six on any of the previous stages.
Ott Tanak dropped a handful of seconds after stalling at a junction to slip from fifth to seventh. He headed Thierry Neuville, Stephane Lefebvre and Evans who dropped more than a minute with a rear left puncture after spinning into a bank. The Welshman struggled for confidence all morning and is 1min 40sec off the lead.
Jari-Matti Latvala won Friday afternoon’s opening two speed tests at Coates Hire Rally Australia to charge up the leaderboard from fifth to second.
The Finn won the second pass through Utungun by 1.6sec in his Volkswagen Polo R to demote Andreas Mikkelsen. He then went fastest though Bakers Creek to move ahead of Hayden Paddon and tied with the Kiwi’s Hyundai team-mate, Dani Sordo, in second.
Latvala reduced the gap to leader Kris Meeke to 6.1sec with two stages remaining in the opening leg of this 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Meeke was second in Utungun and third in Bakers Creek in Citroen’s DS 3.
Second for Mikkelsen in SS6 pushed the Norwegian ahead of Paddon, who dropped from third to fifth.
Championship leader Sebastien Ogier remained sixth and the Frenchman, who is opening the road all day, reckoned the gravel-covered roads were no less slippery than they were during this morning’s first pass. Less than nine seconds covered the five cars from Latvala to Ogier in the overall standings.
Ott Tanak spun his Ford Fiesta RS in Bakers Creek but retained seventh from Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville by 0.4sec.
Jari-Matti Latvala grabbed the lead of Coates Hire Rally Australia in the final stage of Friday’s opening leg after charging up from fifth during a strong afternoon attack.
The Volkswagen Polo R driver ended a slippery morning in New South Wales almost 11sec behind leader Kris Meeke. But a hat-trick of wins in the repeated speed tests promoted him to second before passing Meeke in the last stage to lead by 2.0sec.
“This morning I didn’t have the spark and lacked the last two per cent to attack, but I attacked in the first three afternoon stages. In the last stage I didn’t have the best feeling because my tyres were used. I calculated if I didn’t lose more than five seconds I’d be happy. I dropped only 4.7sec to Ogier, but was faster than Meeke,” said Latvala.
Tyre management was key all day, both this morning when most drivers opted for Michelin’s soft compound rubber and this afternoon when hard compounds were the preferred option.
Meeke led for four stages in Citroen’s DS 3 but was hampered by hanging dust in the final test. “I couldn’t see the end of the bonnet. Driving in sixth gear when you can’t see anything isn’t easy,” said the Ulsterman.
The roads near Coffs Harbour disadvantaged the early starters who swept surface gravel to leave a faster line for those behind. Road opener Sebastien Ogier was worst affected and struggled in sixth before quickest time in the cleaner final stage promoted him to third, 4.6sec behind Latvala.
Kris Meeke regained the lead of Coates Hire Rally Australia through Saturday’s opening Nambucca speed test as Hayden Paddon vaulted into contention by stopping the clocks fastest through the event’s marathon 50.90km signature stage.
Tyre choice was varied as drivers searched for the best mix of rubber and Paddon hit the jackpot with four hard compounds on his Hyundai i20 to win by 4.6sec from Andreas Mikkelsen. He climbed to fifth, just 11.3sec adrift of Citroen DS 3 driver Meeke.
Paddon felt more confident after his Hyundai team identified a differential problem in service last night that had left the Kiwi unhappy with the balance of his i20.
Meeke gambled on soft compound rubber and fourth fastest was enough to promote him into a 2.6sec advantage from overnight leader Jari-Matti Latvala. But he was deflated as he ended the test with badly worn front tyres.
“It was a big gamble and in my road position we should have taken 15 or 20sec out of the other drivers. It was the wrong choice,” said the Ulsterman, who must now tackle the 7.94km live TV Valla stage before he can fit new rubber.
Latvala admitted he was too cautious on the powdery surface in the middle of the stage, but the Volkswagen Polo R pilot held off team-mate Mikkelsen by 0.7sec in the overall standings with S?bastien Ogier a further 0.3sec behind. Just 3.6sec covered the leading quartet.
Third for Ott Tanak promoted the Estonian to sixth in his Ford Fiesta RS, relegating team-mates Dani Sordo, who had no rear brakes, and Thierry Neuville.
Lorenzo Bertelli retired from 10th when the Italian stopped 17.30km into the stage with engine problems in his Ford Fiesta RS.
Kris Meeke retained the lead of Coates Hire Rally Australia at the midpoint of Saturday’s second leg, but Hayden Paddon was the man on the move as he added a second stage win through the live TV Valla test.
Paddon, who won the opening Nambucca signature stage, went fastest in Valla in his Hyundai i20. The Kiwi remained fifth, but such is the pace on this 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship he is just 9.3sec behind leader Meeke.
“My confidence is much better, I feel I can drive like normal. I’m making the best of my road position but it will probably be a bit more difficult this afternoon. Yesterday didn’t go to plan but we sat down and regrouped last night and we’re back in the fight,” said Paddon.
Meeke was fifth, his soft compound tyres hanging on long enough to set a competitive time. “The tyres don’t have much left and it was a bit slippery so I had to check myself. I’m leading by a whisker, but we all know what the Volkswagens can do in the afternoon,” said the DS 3 pilot.
Jari-Matti Latvala was third in his Volkswagen Polo R to retain second place, 2.3sec behind Meeke. “I lost time in the long stage previously so I had more inspiration here to get some time back,” the Finn told WRC Live.
Sebastien Ogier relegated team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen to fourth overall but less than three seconds cover the Volkswagen trio.
Ott Tanak was second fastest in his Ford Fiesta RS to retain sixth from Dani Sordo’s Hyundai i20. Thierry Neuville, a more confident Elfyn Evans and WRC 2 leader Nasser Al-Attiyah completed the leaderboard.
The thrilling battle for victory at Coates Hire Rally Australia continued unabated in Saturday afternoon’s second pass through the marathon Nambucca stage – fastest time went to Sebastien Ogier but Kris Meeke retained his slender lead.
Ogier beat Meeke by 1.5km through the 50.80km test to move into second overall in his Volkswagen Polo R. It left the margin between the pair at 2.4sec with one stage remaining in the penultimate leg.
“Even on the wide section I suffered from a lack of grip,” said Ogier. “I tried too hard and slid too much. I couldn’t give any more and it wasn’t completely perfect, but when you try hard it gets like that.”
Meeke smiled when he pulled up to the finish line in Citroen’s DS 3 and said: “I’m being careful not to overstep the mark. I felt comfortable but I had no idea whether it was going to be a good time or note. But I like being in front!” he said.
Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala were split by a tenth of a second and that dropped Latvala to third overall, 1.9sec behind Ogier and 2.8sec clear of Mikkelsen.
“I’m still in the game and still fighting but I can’t get the best rhythm,” said Latvala. Mikkelsen was hindered by hanging dust and an errant baseball cap which flew into the footwell after a heavy landing over a jump.
Hayden Paddon’s challenge suffered a setback with a gear selection problem in his Hyundai i20 and worn tyres, but he remains fifth, 19.0sec off the lead.
Sebastien Ogier almost doubled his lead over Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala in Sunday morning’s opening speed test at Coates Hire Rally Australia.
The Frenchman, bidding to secure his third consecutive world title here, won Bucca Long by 2.5sec to stretch his advantage at the top of the standings to 5.1sec over the Finn.
Kris Meeke, just three-tenths of a second behind Ogier overnight, could not match his pace and fourth fastest left the Citroen man 12.2sec off the lead as he dropped behind Latvala to third.
“It was a good performance but I missed a junction at a hairpin on asphalt and lost about a second,” explained Polo R driver Ogier. “It was a difficult stage, very narrow through the forest, and it wasn’t easy to make a difference.”
Latvala admitted to a ‘big push’ and such was his pace that he shattered the windscreen in a compression. “When you’re pushing you don’t lift. I’m going for the victory,” he said.
Meeke was brutally honest in his assessment. “For two days I had the advantage of a better road position and now I don’t. That’s the true pace of the Volkswagens. I’m still trying and I can’t do more,” said the DS 3 man.
Meeke conceded 1.9sec to Andreas Mikkelsen, who was third, and the Norwegian closed the gap to 6.9sec with four stages remaining.
Sebastien Ogier completed a hat-trick of wins through Sunday morning’s stages at Coates Hire Rally Australia to close in on a third consecutive world title.
Having won Bucca Long, the Volkswagen Polo R driver went fastest through the live TV Wedding Bells by 1.0sec from closest challenger Jari-Matti Latvala. He ended the loop by winning Settles Road by 1.2sec from the Finn to lead by 7.3sec with two tests remaining.
“A perfect morning, it was very clean,” smiled Ogier. “The last stage was very fast and there wasn’t much room for mistake. It was my first time through this one so there was a little bit of adrenalin.”
Latvala was realistic about the chances of catching his team-mate. “I won’t give up the fight. It’s not impossible to catch him but it’s so difficult to make up time when the cars are so equal,” he said.
Kris Meeke and Andreas Mikkelsen are now involved in a tight battle for third. Mikkelsen was faster than the Ulsterman through both stages and the gap between the two was 4.2sec as drivers returned to Coffs Harbour for mid-leg service.
Sixth-placed Ott Tanak reported a noise from the transmission of his Ford Fiesta RS at the end of Settles Road, but the Estonian had the opportunity for his M-Sport team to investigate the issue in service.
Congratulations to Sebastien Ogier & Julien Ingrassia & Volkswagen-- 3 times World Rally Champions (Hat-trick '13,'14 & '15) !
Sebastien Ogier lifted his third consecutive FIA World Rally Championship title by winning Coates Hire Rally Australia on Sunday.
He won the three-day gravel road event in New South Wales by 12.3sec from Volkswagen Polo R team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala to secure the crown with three rounds remaining. Kris Meeke finished third in Citro?n’s DS 3, 20.3sec further back.
Volkswagen’s 1-2 also secured a third straight manufacturers’ crown for the German squad.
Ogier also won the final live TV Power Stage to claim three bonus points. Latvala took two points in second and Andreas Mikkelsen claimed one in a Polo R.
Sebastien Ogier claimed his third consecutive FIA World Rally Championship title with victory at Coates Hire Rally Australia on Sunday.
His seventh win of the season enabled the Frenchman to enter an exclusive club of multiple title winners. He joins Sébastien Loeb (nine), Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Mäkinen (four each) as the only drivers with more than two titles to their name.
Ogier won the final seven speed tests of the three-day gravel road event in New South Wales to climb from fourth to first and defeat Volkswagen Polo R team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala by 12.3sec. Kris Meeke finished third, a further 20.3sec behind.
“It’s an amazing season, the best I’ve ever done. No mistakes, so many great performances and this one is once again a very high one. It’s the most difficult rally to open the road and still we managed to win. It’s the perfect way to get my third title,” he said.
Ogier had the worst conditions of the frontrunners for the opening two days, sweeping gravel from the roads to leave a cleaner and faster line for those behind. But he snatched the lead from Meeke in Saturday’s night stage and was unmatched through Sunday’s five tests.
Volkswagen’s 1-2 secured a third manufacturers’ crown for the German squad, but there was a late scare for Latvala as he finished the penultimate stage with an alternator warning light flashing in the cockpit. He fitted a new belt to clinch the runners-up spot.
Meeke admitted he had no answer to the pace of the Polo Rs on Sunday. Having started just three-tenths of a second behind Ogier courtesy of better road conditions in the opening two legs, he quickly fell back and looked set to concede third to Andreas Mikkelsen.
However, Mikkelsen checked in to Sunday’s mid-leg service late and a 10sec penalty gave Meeke the breathing space he needed in Citroen’s DS 3. He eventually finished 5.9sec ahead of the Norwegian to end a depressing sequence of results.
New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon finished fifth in a Hyundai i20 to the delight of his army of fans who journeyed across the Tasman Sea to cheer him on. He was 16.5sec behind Mikkelsen after briefly flirting with the lead battle on Saturday morning.
Ott Tanak was sixth, despite a noisy transmission in his Ford Fiesta RS, heading Hyundai duo Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo in seventh and eighth. Sordo led for the first three stages on Friday before brake problems delayed the Spaniard.
Elfyn Evans struggled for confidence throughout and ended a disappointing weekend in ninth in his Fiesta RS, with WRC 2 winner Nasser Al-Attiyah 10th.
The championship returns to asphalt for round 11 next month. The Tour de Corse Rallye de France is based in Corte on 1 - 4 October.
Tight and twisty mountain roads are often bordered on one side by a rock face and on the other by a steep drop into the sea.
Rough and abrasive asphalt places high demands on tyres.
Many crews have not previously tackled the rally so must write all-new pace notes.
Narrow roads mean errors can be punished heavily.
France’s WRC round was held on the stunning island of Corsica from 1973 to 2008.
Never-ending sequences of turns earned the event the nickname ‘The Rally of 10,000 Corners’.
After a year’s absence due to rotation, the rally moved to the Alsace region of the French mainland in 2010.
What’s new for 2015
Everything! The WRC has not been to Corsica since 2008.