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WRC13 Rally Australia Sept 12-15 talk/results spoiler**

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Rnd 10 - WRC Australia - Sep 12-15

Coates hire Rally Australia is making its second visit to Coffs Harbour - the first one was in 2011, with Rally Australia then alternating with Rally New Zealand. Although Coffs Harbour is a recent addition to the calendar, both the area and the country have a long association with international rallying.

The town, which is 540 km north of Sydney, was the home of the Southern Cross rally as far back as the 1960s, and Australia has been hosting WRC events since 1989, with Rally Australia being voted “Rally of the Year” three times in the late 1990s.

New for 2013 is a rally hub in the centre of Coffs Harbour, which incorporates the service park and a mixed surface super special stage which runs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. It features two cars at a time with a simultaneous start on opposite sides of a former velodrome oval, before breaking out onto surrounding streets and finishing back in the oval.

Organisers promise one of the WRC’s most compact events ever, with two of the three legs never straying more than 35km from Coffs Harbour. The 353.98km of competition, split between 22 stages, comprises 38 per cent of the route’s 930.88km.

One of the highlights will be the linking of two tests from 2011 to form a challenging 50km long test over fast country shire roads to open Saturday’s action.

Official Website: rallyaustralia.com/

Listen Live: wrc.com/fanzone/wrc-live/

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Meeke wins Australia qualifying

Citroen's guest driver Kris Meeke made the best possible start to Rally Australia by going fastest on the Qualifying Stage near Coffs Harbour this morning.

It means the Brit, driving here in place of Dani Sordo and on only his second rally in a Citroen DS3 WRC, will have first choice of road position for the opening day of the rally.

In bright and sunny conditions, Meeke was quickest through the 5.54km stage in Bucca by 0.336sec from Sebastien Ogier in a Volkswagen Polo R WRC. Thierry Neuville was third, 0.309sec adrift of Ogier in a Qatar World Rally Team Ford Fiestas RS.

A pumped-up and delighted Meeke punched the air when his time was written on the board at the stage finish. “It’s all about road position here, and that was perfect for me!” he told wrc.com. “It’s not like Finland because this stage is new for everyone. It's a level playing field and I knew that I could deliver given a clean run.”

First through the stage, Ogier’s time had looked unbeatable until Meeke beat it near the end of the session. At the stage end however the Frenchman, who can wrap up the drivers’ championship this weekend, revealed that he could have done better. “It was okay, but not the perfect stage for me,” he said. “Tomorrow’s starting order will be important so I pushed hard - but it wasn’t 100 per cent.”

Neuville too wasn’t completely satisfied with his time. “I could have gone faster but I was a bit too careful in places,” the Belgian explained. “This weekend is a new event for me, and it’s all about finding a steady pace and keeping my second place in the championship.”

Mads Ostberg was fourth in a Fiesta RS, the Norwegian lucky to escape a collision midway through. “We hit a big rock on a long straight after a crest,” he explained. “It was a really big impact on the front right so I took it a bit carefully in the next few corners. When I knew everything was okay I was right back on it again.”

Andreas Mikkelsen was fifth in his Volkswagen Polo R after a shaky start. “I messed up on the first few corners because I missed the right lines,” he said.

Mikko Hirvonen, who reported very slippery conditions, was sixth fastest, with Evgeny Novikov seventh and a downbeat Jari-Matti Latvala eighth. “I’m missing something,” said the Finn. “I thought I’d done a good run but I’m not sure where I lost the time. Maybe I was too sideways in some of the corners.”

Khalid Al Qassimi was ninth quickest with local driver Nathan Quinn rounding off the WRC runners in tenth.

Meeke and his World Rally Car rivals will select their starting positions at a rally show in Coffs Harbour city centre from 1615hrs local time. The rally’s first stage, the Coffs Super Special, gets underway at 1830hrs.

Here are the WRC qualifying times (+ times relative to Meeke’s)

1. Kris Meeke 2min 39.268sec
2. Sebastien Ogier + 0.336
3. Thierry Neuville + 0.645s
4. Mads Ostberg + 1.261s
5. Andreas Mikkelsen + 1.396s
6. Mikko Hirvonen + 2.062s
7. Evgeny Novikov + 2.089s
8. Jari-Matti Latvala + 2.193s
9. Khalid Al Qassimi + 6.621s
10. Nathan Quinn + 8.245s

click: wrc.com/news/meeke-wins-australia-qualifying/

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Meeke opts to start at the back

Rally Australia qualifying stage winner Kris Meeke has opted to start tomorrow's opening leg last of the top priority drivers.

The Citroen DS3 pilot earned the right to choose his start position first by topping the qualifying times. He hopes to take advantage of the best road conditions by starting 10th when the opening leg leaves the Coffs Harbour base tomorrow morning.

His choice was predictable. A long dry period has left the gravel tracks dry and dusty. While the early starters face the unenviable task of sweeping loose stones from the surface, he should benefit from a cleaner and faster line.

Meeke’s only concern was the threat of hanging dust among the trees. However, organisers are considering extending the usual two minute gap between cars by an extra minute, as they did in qualifying, for safety reasons.

Sebastien Ogier, second in qualifying, will start immediately ahead of Meeke in his Volkswagen Polo R with Thierry Neuville’s Ford Fiesta RS ahead of the Frenchman. All the drivers after Meeke opted for the lowest position available.

Coffs Harbour resident Nathan Quinn will be first on the road on his debut in a Mini John Cooper Works.

The full start order is:

1. Nathan Quinn
2. Khalid Al Qassimi
3. Jari-Matti Latvala
4. Evgeny Novikov
5. Mikko Hirvonen
6. Andreas Mikkelsen
7. Mads Ostberg
8. Thierry Neuville
9. Sebastien Ogier
10 Kris Meeke

click: wrc.com/news/19039




After SS2: Mikkelsen leads

Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen holds a slender overnight lead of Rally Australia after the opening two stages on Thursday evening.

The Norwegian was fastest on the first pass of the Super Special in downtown Coffs Harbour - run as SS1 - and second on the second (SS2) to hold a 0.9sec advantage over Citroen DS3 driver Kris Meeke. Mikkelsen’s Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala is third, 0.5sec behind Meeke.

It is the first time that Mikkelsen has led a WRC rally, but it was a close call after he clipped a barrier with the left-hand front corner of his Polo R on the second loop.

“The stage was okay but I think the organisers sprayed water on the road after the first pass and suddenly it was super slippery,” he explained. “I think we’re okay, no damage.”

The water, sprayed on the dry earth sections to keep the dust clouds down, made conditions unexpectedly slippery for many of the WRC crews. “Some corners are like ice,” reported Meeke. “We put on a good show but took absolutely no risks.”

Cheered on by grandstands full of spectators, crews tackled the tight and twisty mixed surface test in pairs with headlights blazing. Drivers’ championship leader Sebastien Ogier ended the day fourth, and looking forward to Friday, when the action switches to the twisty gravel roads south of Coffs Harbour.

“I just tried to keep out of trouble here, but it was tricky because we decided to start with the hard [compound] tyres. Not the best in the slippery stuff - we didn’t expect more water on the stage. Tomorrow is the real start of the rally,” he said.

Mikko Hirvonen is fifth, with Thierry Neuville sixth and Mads Ostberg - who complained of bad understeer – seventh.

Coffs Harbour resident Nathan Quinn ended the day 10th on his debut in a Mini JCW World Rally Car, and managed to beat Khalid Al Qassimi on his second pass through the stage. “I’m learning a lot pretty quickly, now I can’t wait to get out on the wide roads tomorrow,” he said.


Ford Fiesta R5 driver Yuriy Protasov heads the WRC 2 standings, 0.5sec ahead of Yazeed Al Rajhi in a Fiesta RRC. Hayden Paddon is third but left for the overnight parc ferme concerned at the low battery voltage of his Skoda Fabia S2000.

Ford Fiesta R5 driver Subhan Aksa started the stage six minutes late after emergency work to cure an engine problem overran. The Indonesian lost power on the first pass through Thursday’s shakedown and M-Sport technicians stripped and rebuilt the engine this afternoon after it was found to be leaking oil and water.

Rally Australia resumes on Friday morning, with the first of eight stages, the 8.44km Tuckers Nob, getting underway at 1003hrs local time.

click: wrc.com/news/aus ss2

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Day 2-Friday
SS3: Ogier snatches the lead

Volkswagen’s Sebastien Ogier moved into the lead of Rally Australia on Friday’s opening stage, having overturned the early advantage of his team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen.

As many crews struggled in the slippery gravel of Tuckers Nob, Ogier made the most of his start position of ninth on the road, to set the fastest time and pull a 3.3sec lead. “For sure it’s an advantage to be back in the road order,” Ogier said at the finish control. “It wasn’t really a great drive from me, but it’s a good start to the rally.”

Citroen DS3 driver Mikko Hirvonen was second fastest, 2.9sec adrift of Ogier’s time to move up to second overall. “No grip whatsoever in there,” reported the Finn, who is fifth in the running order. “For sure it will get better for the boys behind, but I’m doing all I can in my position.”

Qualifying stage winner Kris Meeke was third fastest, and surprised that his position of tenth in the start order hadn’t been more beneficial. “Maybe the position helps in some corners but there doesn’t seem to be hard base to the road, so it’s not as much of an advantage as I thought. It’s okay though, I’m here to finish the rally, not to win it.”

Driving the Rally Australia stages for the first time, Mads Ostberg was fourth quickest and concentrating on getting used to the conditions. “An okay start, but it was very slippery, very tricky, and I had a lot of oversteer,” he said. “It’ll take a bit of time to adjust but if I’m just 1.9 behind Mikko at this point then that’s a good start.”

Another newcomer to Australia, Mikkelsen rounded off the top five times with a cautious start. “Very, very slippery. I didn’t expect that. I lost some time in the beginning, but after that some sections were okay, some I was too careful. It’s still early in the rally,” he said.

An anxious Thierry Neuville was sixth fastest, the Belgian concerned that his new pace notes were too fast for the road conditions. “I felt like I was driving just on gravel and stones,” he said. “There was no traction and my lines were not the best. Not a good start.”

After struggling on Thursday’s qualifying stage, Jari-Matti Latvala remained dissatisfied with his performance. “It was quite slippery, worse than I had expected, and I spun – my first full spin in the Polo,” he said. “We were okay speed wise, but it was a cambered corner and that pulled us around. We lost about five seconds with that, and about the same with my driving.”

Coffs Harbour resident Nathan Quinn steered his Mini JCW though in the 11th fastest time, almost 29 seconds slower than Ogier, but 0.9sec quicker than WRC regular Khalid Al Qassimi. “It might not have been fast but that was a ball. Sixth gear in a World Rally Car - a dream come true!” said Quinn.

click: wrc.com/news/Aus ss3


SS4: Two out of two for Ogier

Sebastien Ogier claimed his second consecutive win of the morning but the Frenchman’s advantage over Kris Meeke was just half a second.

The Frenchman extended his lead to 4.4sec and looked relaxed in his Volkswagen Polo R as he pulled up at the finish. “Honestly, I wasn’t pushing, no. My road position helps but I’m just taking it stage by stage,” said Ogier, who is benefiting from roads swept clean by the early starters.

Meeke climbed to second overall in his Citroen DS3, the Northern Ireland driver happier than at the end of the opening stage.

“I had a better feeling in here,” he said. “I had never driven the car in conditions like SS1 before. The road snaked left and right and I have to learn the car. Here the road is different, a lot faster. There was dust hanging in the trees so I have to thank the organisers for extending the gap between cars to three minutes. It creates good competition and it’s safe.”

Team-mate Mikko Hirvonen was third, a further 4.7sec behind, but he was less content than his colleague. “It wasn’t as good as the first one. It was more technical and narrow and I was a bit cautious in places,” admitted the Finn.

Norwegians Mads Ostberg and Andreas Mikkelsen were tied for fourth, Ostberg moving his Ford Fiesta RS ahead of team-mate Thierry Neuville into fifth in the standings. “It wasn’t perfect. It was very, very difficult to find a rhythm but it seems like everyone is struggling,” he said.

Mikkelsen slipped to fourth overall after a cautious drive. “I clipped a rock with the left front at the exit of a corner and I was afraid we had a puncture. I was a bit cautious. It’s a tricky rally but we’re trying to build a rhythm,” he said.

The top six was rounded off by Evgeny Novikov, the Russian hampered by loose gravel on the surface. “It was very slippery. I hope it will be better for the second pass. Maybe the set-up isn’t the best for these conditions but we’re out on the stages now so there’s nothing we can do,” explained the Fiesta RS pilot.

Neuville was next up, the Belgian struggling with visibility issues due to dust on the windscreen of his Fiesta RS. Jari-Matti Latvala, eighth in his Polo R, cut a downbeat figure, the Finn admitting he didn’t think it would be so slippery at third in the start order.

click: wrc.com/news/Aus ss4


SS5: Stage win hat-trick

A clean sweep of fastest times on Friday morning’s three stages has given Volkswagen’s Sebastien Ogier a rally lead of 8.8sec as crews return to Coffs Harbour for the 30-minute midday service.

Citroen’s guest driver Kris Meeke continues to impress in second, with his team-mate Mikko Hirvonen third in another DS3.

As expected, road position proved to be an important factor on the opening loop of gravel tests, and drivers running down the start order benefited from roads swept by the cars ahead.

But the sweeping effect on today’s new stages proved less pronounced than many drivers had expected, with the soft base roads remaining slippery for just about everyone.

Running ninth in the start order, Ogier, who can wrap up the drivers’ championship this weekend, rounded off a drama-free morning in his Polo R with a fastest time through the 24km Newry test. But despite his running order advantage, he was only 0.5sec quicker than Hirvonen who was fifth car through. “The road just doesn’t get very clean so it’s very difficult to find the line,” he said.

Meeke, driving here in place of Dani Sordo, was in the top-three stage times all morning and had the benefit of the best possible start position of 10th. At the end of the SS5, however, Meeke revealed that following nine World Rally Cars through also had its disadvantages.

“Sometimes it’s not so great - we hit a massive stone pulled out in the middle of the road and the impact wrenched the steering wheel out of my hands,” he explained. “Thankfully it’s a strong car and I’m still here. In the second half of the stage I struggled to commit in case something else had been pulled out on the line.”

Hirvonen has been the other consistently good performer this morning. Despite admitting to ‘a few hairy moments’ on SS5, the Finn ended the loop third, just 0.2sec behind Meeke.

With 47.7 stage kilometres completed, the lead trio have pulled 16.6sec ahead of the chasing pack, led by a less than comfortable Thierry Neuville in a Ford Fiesta RS. “I’m not enjoying it at all for the moment - I have no rhythm or confidence. I’m here for the first time and it’s completely different to what I was expecting. I’m a bit lost,” the Belgian acknowledged.

Fellow Fiesta RS driver Mads Ostberg is 2.1sec back in fifth, and also struggling to get to grips with a rally that to him is brand new. “I’m finding it difficult to find the rhythm,” he said. “My pace notes have been far too fast in some sections, and then, when I try to adapt my driving, they’re too slow. I don’t know why, but they’re not right.”

Thursday’s overnight leader Andreas Mikkelsen is 9.3sec further back in sixth, having dropped three places with an overshoot on SS5. “We came across a left-hander after a crest a little too fast and I drove down an escape road,” the Norwegian explained. “It was so dusty we had to stop and wait for 20 seconds to see where we were – I didn’t have a clue.”


Yazeed Al Rajhi heads the WRC 2 category, the Saudi Arabian building a 19.6sec advantage in his Ford Fiesta RRC. Ukraine's Yuriy Protasov lies second in a Fiesta R5, with Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari holidng third, the Qatari a further 18.1sec behind in his Fiesta RRC.

Hayden Paddon retired his Skoda Fabia S2000 en route to the opening stage with electrical problems while Subhan Aksa failed to restart. The Indonesian's engine issues yesterday were diagnosed as a broken cylinder head stud and he has retired from the rally.

click: wrc.com/news/Aus ss5

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SS6: Ogier continues to rule

Sebastien Ogier remains unbeaten today after chalking up his fourth consecutive stage victory in his Volkswagen Polo R, extending his lead to 11.7sec over new second-placed driver Mikko Hirvonen.

The Frenchman was 2.7sec ahead of Hirvonen’s Citroen DS3 and relished the improved grip he found on the second pass through this test. His time was more than seven seconds faster, or almost one second per kilometre, than this morning.

“I tried to push because I had a feeling the grip would be good. Nobody wanted to do a stupid mistake this morning and we all wanted to take a look at the notes,” he explained.

Hirvonen had mixed feelings, happy with the cleaner roads but concerned about hanging dust among the trees.

“In places it was better but it feels tougher than this morning. Now dust is a problem. The wind has gone and it’s dusty, so it may be even more difficult for the boys behind. The next stage will be hard,” said Hirvonen, previewing the following Bellingen test which runs almost entirely in a forest.

Thierry Neuville was third in his Ford Fiesta RS, the Belgian also far more content now the loose gravel has been cleared. “There was a lot of grip and when there’s traction I feel comfortable. It’s when it’s slippery that I need to improve my driving. I just hope I wasn’t too hard on the tyres,” he said.

Fourth for Kris Meeke dropped him four-tenths of a second behind Citroen team-mate Hirvonen to third overall, but he was unconcerned. “I’m quite happy. I struggled a bit at the start because I didn’t have the right rhythm, but I’m happy driving at a steady pace and not taking risks,” he said.

Volkswagen duo Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen were fifth and sixth in Polo Rs. After a difficult morning on the slippery roads, Latvala was slightly more upbeat but admitted he was still struggling to find a rhythm.

Qatar M-Sport duo Mads Ostberg and Evgeny Novikov were seventh and eighth in Fiesta RS cars. Ostberg was perplexed at his time after feeling he had driven well, while his Russian team-mate was happier after making changes to his car’s set-up during the mid-leg service.

click: wrc.com/news/aus ss6


SS7: Tight at the top

Rally leader Sebastien Ogier maintained his unbroken run of Friday stage wins on the repeated Bellingen, but with less than two seconds covering the four fastest drivers it was tight at the top.

“We had a good drive, and it’s a nice stage now the grip is better than it was this morning,” said Ogier.

Citroen DS3 driver Mikko Hirvonen was second fastest, 1.4sec slower that Oger to end the stage 13.1sec adrift in the overall standings. “I wasn’t so fast here this morning but it felt much better now, and I was braver over the jumps,” he said.

Thierry Neuville was third quickest, the Belgian increasingly comfortable on the Australian stages in his Ford Fiesta RS. “I could have gone quicker but in some places I took it steady, no big risks,” he said. “I really enjoyed this one, much better than the first pass and my pace notes are much better as well.”

Jari-Matti Latvala set the fourth fastest time in his Polo R. “It feels like it’s getting better and I felt even more comfortable on this stage,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see how the time compares.”

The time turned out to be enough for Latvala to move up to seventh, ahead of a confused Evgeny Novikov. “The stage was okay and we were close to the split times of Jari-Matti until the final section when we lost three seconds. I don’t know why. It’s very strange,” he said.

click more: wrc.com/news/aus ss7


SS8: Ostberg

Mads Ostberg counted himself lucky to stay in Rally Australia after hitting a rock so hard that the driver's door of his Ford Fiesta RS flew open.

The Norwegian encountered the rogue rock in the road in a right corner and while other drivers reported near misses, Ostberg hit it full on with the side of his car.

“I hit it sideways and the door flew open. We almost went off the road into the trees. It’s a good job I hit it sideways because if I had hit it with the front of the car, then that would have been it,” he explained.

Thierry Neuville was also fortunate to emerge unscathed. “I saw a big rock and a smaller one. I was able to avoid the big one and drove over the small one with the middle of the car. I was lucky not to hit the bigger one,” admitted the Belgian.

Neuville’s escape helped him set second fastest time behind Sebastien Ogier, who maintained his winning run with a sixth straight stage win.

“I think we can say that the day was perfect. It’s not an easy stage and the dust was hanging,” said the Volkswagen Polo R pilot, who praised the organisers for further extending the gap between cars from three to four minutes for safety reasons as the still air left dust clouds floating among the trees.

Ogier finished 2.8sec ahead of Neuville, with Mikko Hirvonen 5.3sec behind in third in his Citroen DS3. Ogier’s advantage over Hirvonen is 18.4sec with just two passes over the short Coffs Harbour super special stage remaining tonight.

Hirvonen was buzzing after one of his best days of the season. “I’m really happy with my pace. It was clean and a good drive. I just have to hope it’s enough. I hope Ogier doesn’t take too much time out of me so I can stay in the fight,” said the Finn.

Jari-Matti Latvala was fourth in his Polo R to move ahead of Ostberg and Andreas Mikkelsen into fifth after an improved afternoon. “It’s been a character building day and we have been learning, so let’s take something from that,” said Latvala, who struggled on the gravelly roads this morning.

click more: wrc.com/news/aus ss8

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Sebastien Ogier made an impressive start to his bid to clinch the FIA World Rally Championship drivers' title at Coates Hire Rally Australia by dominating today’s opening leg.

Having won the second of last night’s two short curtain-raising speed tests in the centre of Coffs Harbour, the Frenchman was fastest on all six of today’s country stages and one of the repeat town tests in his Volkswagen Polo R to overnight with a 20.0sec lead.

“It was a perfect day,” admitted Ogier, who will secure his maiden title on Sunday if he collects nine points more than closest rival Thierry Neuville. “It was a short day and there are two long days in front of us so nothing is done, but we couldn’t have expected better.”

After a long period without rain, the roads were covered in a slippery layer of thick gravel. Most were new to everyone and Ogier was cautious this morning as he checked his pace notes at rally speed before attacking harder in cleaner conditions this afternoon.

Mikko Hirvonen enjoyed one of his best days of a tough year. Despite a far from ideal road position, he held third before using the benefit of the swept roads to displace Citroen DS3 team-mate Kris Meeke from second this afternoon.

“I’m really happy with my pace and, from my road position, I’m equally happy with second tonight,” said the Finn. “Dust was a problem this afternoon and also in tonight’s stages in town when it was hard to see anything.”

Meeke won qualifying yesterday to earn the best start position. His thoughts were set on securing a solid points finish rather than chasing victory, and he looked certain to overnight in third until he stalled at the start of the final test and slipped to fourth

“I was quite happy this morning but I found it a bit more difficult this afternoon,” admitted the Northern Ireland driver. “In these conditions you need experience of your car and I played it a little bit careful because this is only my second rally in the DS3. I’m driving my own race and I want to be at the finish.”

click more: wrc.com/news/19067


Yuriy Protasov leads the WRC 2 category of Rally Australia at the end of a dramatic opening day during which four of the front-runners retired.

The Ukrainian has a 33.5sec advantage in his Ford Fiesta R5 over Abdulaziz Al Kuwari in an RRC version of the same car. Alejandro Lombardo is a distant third, more than eight minutes further back in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X.

Friday’s competition got underway with the retirement of two of the drivers tipped to do well this weekend.

Ford Fiesta R5 pilot Subhan Aksa was the first to go. The Indonesian was seventh after Thursday’s two Super Specials but failed to restart this morning after his car’s engine was found to have a broken cylinder head stud.

Next out was New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon, who retired on the road section to Friday’s first stage when his Skoda Fabia S2000 suffered a recurrence of the electrical problem first experienced on Thursday night.

Yazeed Al Rajhi was the WRC 2 pacesetter for much of Friday’s competition. The Saudi Arabian was quickest on four of the day’s stages to build a 23sec lead over Arman Smailov before he retired on stage eight after a collision with a bank midway through left his Ford Fiesta RRC with broken steering.

Smailov was hampered by a broken rear driveshaft on stage five, but was up to third before he too retired after an incident on stage eight. The Kazakhstan driver broke the left-hand rear suspension of his Subaru Impreza WRX when he slid wide into a huge rock. He managed to get his damaged car through the stage, but retired soon after.

Venezuelan driver Carlos Fessman retired on stage seven with gearbox damage after going off the road.

Smailov’s exit promoted Lombardo into third, the Venezuelan in some discomfort after jarring his back early in the day. Alex Gelvez is fourth, and the final WRC 2 competitor, in a Mini RRC.

click: wrc.com/news/wrc-2

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Day 3
SS11: Ogier maintains his grip

Volkswagen’s Sebastien Ogier continued his stage winning form on Saturday’s opening test, going fastest in his Polo R to stretch his rally lead over Mikko Hirvonen to 25.3sec.

Citroen DS3 driver Hirvonen and Ogier were closely matched through much of the monster 50km Nambucca, the longest stage of the rally, before Ogier pulled 5.3sec clear in the closing section.

“It almost felt like he was playing with us,” said Hirvonen. “Our split times showed we were one second up, then one second down, back and forth like that for most of the stage, and then he pulled three seconds in one split. We had a near miss towards the end and then took it a bit more cautiously. All we can do now is try to keep the pressure on him and see what happens.”

Ogier, who is following Hirvonen through today’s stages, denied that he was toying with his rival. “I was not playing with him, but I did try to copy his rhythm and not push too much. That was enough,” he said.

Ogier’s team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala was third fastest to edge closer to Kris Meeke in fourth overall. Latvala reduced the gap from 19.6sec to 14.5sec. “It’s a good fight,” the Finn acknowledged, “but it’s important to stay cool. The car is understeering. We made some changes to the set-up and it’s not done what I had hoped, so I think we’ll change it back to how it was before.”

click more: wrc.com/news/aus ss11


SS12: SS12: Latvala deflated

Although Valla is a minnow compared to the 50km Nambucca that preceded it, it was far from easy as the roads were covered in a thick layer of gravel - as several drivers discovered to their cost.

Worst affected was Jari-Matti Latvala who hit a bank near the start and punctured the rear right tyre and damaged the front of his Volkswagen Polo R. He lost over 15sec and slipped behind Mads Ostberg into sixth in the standings.

“We went wide and hit a bank,” explained the Finn. “We hit the front and rear of the car. It didn’t steer, it just went light and stopped turning.”

He lies 3.9sec behind Ostberg and 11.2sec ahead of Volkswagen colleague Andreas Mikkelsen in their fight for fifth. Mikkelsen was also caught out by the same bend.

“I slipped wide in a slow corner and lost a lot of time because I lost the line and speed out of the bend,” said the Norwegian, who completed the test with part of his Polo R’s bumper missing and a tyre partly off the rim.

There were no such issues for Sebastien Ogier who extended his lead to 27.6sec after another win. He was quickest by 2.3sec in his Polo R from Mikko Hirvonen and the Frenchman admitted he benefited from a low start position and cleaner roads.

“Everything is going perfectly,” he told WRC Live at the finish. “The day is long but if it continues like that it will be good. I can’t say that I’m really pushing, but I’m last on the road and taking advantage of that. Just by driving cleanly I’m going fast.”

Hirvonen admitted there was little he could do to stop the Ogier steamroller. “I had a good, steady drive but it’s difficult to make a big gap against him. I’m trying not to make any mistakes,” said the Citroen DS3 driver.

Ostberg was third in his Ford Fiesta RS, the Norwegian struggling with the handling on the slippery roads. “Massive, massive oversteer so it was quite difficult,” he said. “There was a big layer of gravel on the road and it’s cleaning a lot. But they were fantastic stages this morning, really enjoyable.”

Thierry Neuville was fourth in his Fiesta RS to retain third overall, 32.0sec behind Hirvonen. “It unbelievably slippery in many, many corners. I had to slow a bit to finish the stage. There were no clean lines and it was like driving on ice. At the end I was driving too carefully, but at least I’m at the end,” said the Belgian.

click more: wrc.com/news/aus ss12

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SS13: Disaster for Meeke

Kris Meeke’s impressive run on Rally Australia came to a premature end when the Brit rolled his Citroen DS3 20 kilometres into the repeated Nambucca stage.

Meeke and his co-driver Chris Patterson were fourth, and under pressure to deliver solid points for the French manufacturer, before they went off.

Citroen have confirmed that neither driver was injured, but this was Meeke’s second retirement from two guest appearances in a DS3 this season.

Elsewhere it was business as usual for Volkswagen ace Sebastien Ogier who took another stage win to extend his rally lead over Mikko Hirvonen to 34.7sec.

Hirvonen was second quickest, 7.1sec slower than Ogier, with Thierry Neuville third.

Jari-Matti Latvala was fourth fastest, and now up to fourth overall following Meeke’s exit.

Evgeny Novikov was another driver to hit trouble. The Russian dropped more than two minutes when his Ford Fiesta RS picked up a left-hand rear puncture.

click: wrc.com/news/aus ss13


SS14: Ogier remains unbeaten

Sebastien Ogier continued his seemingly unstoppable progress by claiming his fourth consecutive win today, and the Frenchman has now won all 10 of the bush stages in Coates Hire Rally Australia.

Ogier’s Volkswagen Polo R was quickest by 2.3sec from Thierry Neuville’s Ford Fiesta RS and he goes into tonight’s final two tests in downtown Coffs Harbour with a 42.2sec advantage over Mikko Hirvonen.

“We’ve extended the lead and it looks really good but there is another long day tomorrow,” said Ogier, who admitted the possibility of securing his maiden world title tomorrow was hard to ignore. “I have it a little bit in my mind,” he added.

Neuville took no risks, the Belgian aware his tyres were less than perfect after the previous 50km Nambucca test. “I was going quite well, but it was very slippery. The tyres are a bit used after the long one so I took it steady in places,” he said.

Jari-Matti Latvala was third in another Polo R, and the fourth-placed Finn sounded more upbeat than at any time so far. “It has been very, very frustrating. At some moments it’s not going well, then I think it’s OK, but then we get another setback. Now we are in the right direction again and this time I want to keep it like that,” he said.

Volkswagen colleague Andreas Mikkelsen was fourth and climbed to fourth overall. The Norwegian moved 1.0sec ahead of fellow countryman Mads Ostberg who dropped 20sec after going off the road in his Fiesta RS.

“We went wide in a corner going onto Tarmac. There was a lot of gravel going onto the Tarmac and it was more slippery than I expected and I went into a ditch. We hit something and spun around,” said a despondent Ostberg.

Hirvonen ceded 7.5sec to Ogier after finishing sixth. “The tyres are pretty used. I took it a bit easier to make sure I didn’t do any mistakes. We lost a bit but I think I can make it up tomorrow,” he explained.

click: wrc.com/news/aus ss14

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End of Day:

Sebastien Ogier proved unbeatable in Coates Hire Rally Australia today as he won all six speed tests to more than double his lead to 45.9sec with one day remaining in this 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

The Frenchman won all four country stages in his Volkswagen Polo R before rounding the day off with victory in both arena tests in downtown Coffs Harbour. He has won 14 of the 16 stages to date.

Ogier started the day with a 20.0sec advantage over Mikko Hirvonen’s Citroen DS3 but nobody got close to him on the roads south-west of Coffs Harbour, which included two passes over the monster 50km Nambucca test.

“Our rally was perfect today but the final leg will be tough so we have to keep our concentration and focus,” said Ogier, who could secure his maiden world title at tomorrow afternoon’s finish.

A thick coating of gravel made conditions slippery during this morning’s first pass of the stages. The roads were cleaner this afternoon and Hirvonen was untroubled as he widened the gap over third-placed Thierry Neuville to 25.5sec.

Neuville took no risks, checking his pace notes at rally pace this morning before upping his speed this afternoon to set top three times. “We have been quite clever. We discovered the roads the first time through because they were new and went faster in the second pass when we knew them better,” said the Ford Fiesta RS pilot.

Kris Meeke was on course to retain fourth until he crashed in the second pass through Nambucca, his Citroen DS3 rolling seven times.

“I went into a second gear corner 5-10kph too fast,” explained Meeke. “I thought I’d got away with it, but the car just slipped off the road. It nearly stopped, but unfortunately there was a very steep bank down into a field and it just kept tumbling.”

click more: wrc.com/news/19082


WRC 2:

Ford Fiesta RRC driver Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari took the lead in the WRC 2 category of Rally Australia today and is on course to move top of the championship standings on Sunday.

The Qatari snatched first place on Stage 12 when overnight leader Yuriy Protasov spun on the second corner, damaging the right-hand side of his Fiesta R5 and slipping to second after losing more than two minutes.

Al-Kuwari had a lucky escape himself on SS15 when he spun into a field, but the Qatari brought his car back to service in Coffs Harbour with a relatively comfortable lead over Protasov of 1min 13.8sec.

Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi is third, almost seven minutes behind Protasov, having restarted after breaking the steering on his Fiesta RRC on Friday.

Subaru Impreza driver Arman Smailov is fourth, nearly 13 minutes further back, with Hayden Paddon almost 11 minutes behind in fifth.

Restarting today after his day one retirement with electrical problems, Paddon gave a glimpse of what might have been by winning each of Saturday’s gravel stages by a comfortable margin in his Skoda Fabia S2000.

The New Zealander rounded off the day with a joint fastest and a second fastest time on the two Coffs super specials.

Mini JCW driver Carlos Garcia Fessman is sixth and the final WRC 2 runner.

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Day 4
SS17: Hirvonen on top at last

A strange thing happened in the opening stage of this morning’s third and final leg of Coates Hire Rally Australia – Sebastien Ogier didn’t set fastest time!

The rally leader has won every bush test to date and Volkswagen has been fastest on every stage so far, but Mikko Hirvonen broke the mould by powering his Citroen DS3 to fastest time by just one-tenth of a second.

“It’s a little bit dusty in places. It’s right to have three minute gaps and in some places we could have more as well,” said the Finn.

Ogier is all too aware that a maiden world title is tantalisingly within reach. Victory and bonus points for first or second fastest in the final Power Stage would be sufficient for the Frenchman, who was his usual calm self at the finish.

“Nothing is wrong. We just have to drive this day. There are a lot of kilometres and I have to keep it cool,” said the Polo R pilot. Asked if the title was uppermost in his mind, he added: “It’s close, but there are still five stages to go.”

Jari-Matti Latvala was third in another Polo R, 0.4sec behind Hirvonen. The Finn was clear that he did not plan to challenge Thierry Neuville, 31.0sec ahead, for third in the standings. “I’m getting the rhythm. I don’t want to fight. We’re in a good position now for the manufacturers’ points and it’s time to play a clever role,” he said.

Mads Ostberg was fourth in a Ford Fiesta RS and moved ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen into fifth overall. Mikkelsen was next up and he, too, made it clear he would not fight his fellow Norwegian for position.

“I would love to fight him but I need to look at the bigger picture. We have to think of the manufacturer points,” said the Volkswagen driver.

Neuville rounded off the top six after a drama-free stage but the same could not be said for Khalid Al Qassimi. The Abu Dhabi driver lost time when he clipped a bank and later overshot a bend in his Citroen DS3.

Kris Meeke made the restart today after the Citroen mechanics worked for 2hr 50min last night to repair his battered DS3. “The guys did an incredible job to repair the car. It feels 110 per cent and I can’t thank them enough,” said Meeke.

click: wrc.com/news/aus ss17


SS18: Ogier back on track

While many of the drivers in the top 10 adopted a more cautious approach through Sunday’s second stage, Volkswagen’s title hopeful Sebastien Ogier kept his foot down to take another stage win.

Thierry Neuville was Ogier’s closest challenger on Wedding Bells, completing 1.4sec slower in his Ford Fiesta RS.

“I enjoyed that,” said Neuville. “I have a lot of confidence, my pace notes are good and I have found a good rhythm. No we have to stay like this all the way to the finish.”

Ogier’s team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala was third fastest, and feeling right at home on the roads north of Coffs Harbour. “That was really enjoyable, for me probably the best stage of the rally,” he said. “The roads were a bit more open, and even in the forest sections it was very quick and a bit like Finland, so it suits my driving style.”

Almost one minute off Ogier’s lead, second placed Mikko Hirvonen was fourth fastest and focused on maintaining the position. “All I’m doing is trying to control my situation. No problems,” he said.

Having slipped to sixth on the previous stage, Andreas Mikkelsen was seventh fastest, and another to admit that survival was now the priority. “Everything is fine, I’m just driving really, really slowly and carefully,” he said. “I’ve nothing to gain and everything to lose, so I need to drive safely.”

click: wrc.com/news/aus ss18


SS19: Ogier edges closer to title

Sebastien Ogier completed a drama-free final morning in Coates Hire Rally Australia, extending his lead to 53.3sec after claiming his second stage win in Shipmans, the longest test of this third and final leg.

The Frenchman journeyed back to the Coffs Harbour service park knowing that, barring any errors, just 62.57km stand between him and a maiden world title in Volkswagen’s first season in WRC.

After losing today’s opener by a tenth of a second to Mikko Hirvonen, Ogier restored order by winning the next two. He was 2.3sec clear of team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala in Shipmans and if the tension was getting to him, he certainly didn’t show it.

“I like this stage but I don’t have a good memory of it from two years ago,” smiled the Frenchman, who retired from the lead of Rally Australia here in 2011 when he hit a tree and damaged his Citroen DS3’s radiator.

Latvala finished the stage with a perplexed look on his face as his Polo R trailed about four metres of fence wire from its rear left suspension. “I can’t understand where that came from. I haven’t been off the road,” said the Finn.

Mikko Hirvonen was four tenths of a second behind his fellow countryman in a DS3, with Thierry Neuville 4.5sec further back in his Ford Fiesta RS after an early drama.

“I made a small mistake at the first split and lost three or four seconds,” said the Belgian. “It happened at a third gear left. I understood the pace note but realised too late that I must slow more and I had to spin the car a bit.”

Fiesta twins Mads Ostberg and Evgeny Novikov were fifth and sixth but there was little appetite for a fight as the front-runners appear settled in their positions, happy to check their pace notes for the Power Stage which is run over the second pass this afternoon.

click: wrc.com/news/aus ss19

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SS20: Ogier keeps his focus

Fresh from the 30-minute midday service, Sebastien Ogier was straight back on the attack through the repeated Bucca test, the Frenchman fastest by 0.2sec to pull almost one minute clear of the rest of the field.

Tantalisingly close to the end of the rally, and the 2013 WRC drivers’ title, Ogier explained why he had no intention of slowing down just yet.

“It’s the best way to stay concentrated, otherwise I start to think too much,” he said. “Nobody’s pushing too much now, maybe they’re trying to save tyres for the Power Stage. Anyway, I’m trying to stay cool and keep calm. If I can do this for two more stages perhaps then I can adopt a different attitude!”

Further down the order, Mads Ostberg had a scare early in the stage that threatened his fifth place. “We got a front right puncture after about 500 metres, I don’t know why, maybe the tyre was pushed off the rim,” he said.

The Norwegian completed the test 16.9sec slower than Ogier, and now lies just 8.9sec ahead of his compatriot Andreas Mikkelsen in sixth.

Mikkelsen however is well placed to take manufacturers’ championship points from Citroen’s Kris Meeke behind, and with instructions from Volkswagen to get the car home, was quick to dispel any talk of a fight for fifth.

“I’m not going to make changes to the objective here,” he said. “I’m concentrated on getting to the finish. As for the battle with Mads, we’ll have to do that another day.”

click: wrc.com/news/aus ss20


SS21: Ogier on the verge

Sebastien Ogier closed to within one 29.44km special stage of his maiden world title after reeling off another stage win in Wedding Bells in his Volkswagen Polo R.

The Frenchman starts the final Shipmans test with a lead of 64.1sec over Mikko Hirvonen’s Citroen DS3. A clean run and bonus points for finishing second or higher in the Power Stage would be sufficient for Ogier to secure the crown in Volkswagen’s first WRC season.

The only man that can deny him the title today, apart from himself, is Thierry Neuville. But that would require Ogier to slip up badly and the Belgian, realistically, would need maximum points from the Power Stage.

As Ogier has only been beaten on one country stage this weekend, it’s a long shot……..

Ogier was fastest by 1.2sec from team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, with Neuville third in his Ford Fiesta RS, 2.8sec behind.

“I’m starting to think more and more about it, but up to now it’s OK,” said Ogier. “I try to keep a good rhythm to make life easier, otherwise I have too much time to think.”

click: wrc.com/news/aus ss21



Sebastien Ogier has taken a dominant victory on Rally Australia, but just missed out on the chance to wrap up the 2013 title.

The Frenchman steered his Volkswagen Polo R through the final 29km Shipmans test to win by 1min 32sec from Thierry Neuville, who snatched second on the final stage after Mikko Hirvonen got a puncture.

Neuville’s promotion prevented Ogier from taking enough points to secure the 2013 WRC drivers’ title here.

Ogier rounded off his weekend with the fastest time through Shipmans to bag three Power Stage points. Neuville took two for second, with Novikov taking the final point for third.

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WRC: Ogier’s rally - but no title yet

Sebastien Ogier claimed his sixth victory of the season at Coates Hire Rally Australia, but the Frenchman missed out on confirming his maiden world title by a single point after a dramatic final speed test.

Ogier was dominant throughout, winning 19 of the 22 stages in his Volkswagen Polo R to triumph by 1min 32.1sec. But his title celebrations were put on ice when a final stage puncture for Mikko Hirvonen cost him second place and elevated Thierry Neuville to runner-up.

The extra points for Neuville, allied to two bonus points for taking second in the final Power Stage, meant Ogier fell just short of the title after four days of gravel competition covering 352.36km on the Coffs Harbour Coast of New South Wales.

“The team told me at the finish line that I had missed the title by one point because Mikko had a problem. I tried my best,” said 29-year-old Ogier, who was congratulated at the end of the stage by his father, mother and sister.

“The most important thing is that we did another perfect rally and we thought it was OK for the title, but it can’t be written down yet. When you do a perfect job like that you expect to get it, but it’s going to happen soon,” warned Ogier, who has three rounds remaining in which to be secure the crown.

Hirvonen enjoyed one of his best performances of the season in his Citroen DS3 until his rear left tyre punctured midway through the last 29.44km test. “I have absolutely no idea what happened. I drove in the middle of the road all the time and I can’t understand how we got a puncture,” said the incredulous Finn.

He lost almost a minute and that was enough to allow the consistent Neuville through to second for a fifth consecutive podium in his Ford Fiesta RS. He finished 30.0sec ahead of Hirvonen in third after a troublefree event.

Jari-Matti Latvala finished fourth in another Polo R, the Finn recovering from a lacklustre start to fight back up the leaderboard. He, too, lost a minute with front left tyre issues in the final stage but it didn’t cost any places.

click more: wrc.com/news/19099


WRC 2: Win for Al-Kuwari

Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari was victorious in the WRC 2 class of Rally Australia and has moved to the top of the FIA championship standings.

The Qatari, who drives a Ford Fiesta RRC, began Sunday’s competition with a comfortable 1min 13.8sec lead over Yuriy Protasov, and lost just 0.4sec of this margin by the end, to finish tenth overall.

It was the third WRC 2 victory of the season for Al-Kuwari, who also took maximum points on the other long-haul rounds in Mexico and Argentina. He now leads Robert Kubica by 17 points in the title standings.

“Three wins this year, leading again and I equal my best result which was 10th in Greece, so it’s feeling really good,” said Al Kuwari. “I’m pleased to have made top-10 in an RRC car, my pace was really good, even against the top drivers, and every time the gap is getting closer. The team did a great job, as did my co-driver Killian, it’s been a very nice weekend.”

Protasov picked up 18 points for second, but was left rueing a spin on Saturday which damaged the right-hand side of his Fiesta R5 and dropped him out of the lead. “It’s a good result, but maybe it could have been better,” shrugged the Ukrainian.

Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rajhi was third, almost seven minutes behind Protasov, and relieved to have salvaged a decent result after retiring his Fiesta RRC on Friday with broken steering.

Subaru Impreza driver Arman Smailov was a distant fourth, 20m35s further back, with New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon rounding off the top five.

click: wrc.com/news/19102


Next Rnd 11 Rally de France Oct 3-6

The route kicks off on Thursday with a lengthened stage in Strasbourg itself, which ends near the city’s European Parliament. For the first time a rally’s opening test will also form the Power Stage, with bonus points on offer to the fastest three drivers.

Legs 2 and 3 have been switched compared to 2012, with Friday’s action in the Bas-Rhin region and Saturday venturing into the Haut-Rhin, with the town of Colmar again the hub.

What remains unaltered is the last of the 20 stages covering 312.14km which runs through the streets of Haguenau.

Official Website: rallyedefrance.com/en/

Listen Live: wrc.com/fanzone/wrc-live/

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