COFFS COAST (NSW) – Australian drivers and their hard-working teams, Kennards Hire Rally Australia offers more than just being the final and deciding round of the CAMS Australian Rally Championship. It’s also a chance to test themselves against the best in the world.
PHOTO: Eli Evans is targeting a fourth CAMS Australian Rally Championship at Kennards Hire Rally Australia this weekend (ARC photo)
The FIA World Rally Championship teams have more financial backing and the latest technology on their side, but the best Aussie outfits admit it will be exciting seeing how they compare against the internationals on the forest stages of the Coffs Coast.
ARC leader Eli Evans said every round of the Australian season is exciting, but being next to the WRC drivers in Coffs Harbour adds extra excitement.
“The world’s best drivers are there so you’re testing yourself against super-professional people,” said the three-time champion, 35.
“If you played tennis casually it’s like going against Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. That’s kind of the comparison.
“It’s exciting to be able to match your times against the world’s best and our car’s eligible for WRC2 so we get to race against some of the junior drivers and some of the guys who are trying to make the step up to World Rally, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Chasing Evans in the race for the Australian title are Harry Bates, Steve Glenney and Molly Taylor.
Bates trails Evans by 57 points but a perfect weekend of 101 points in his AP4 Toyota Yaris would throw the cat among the pigeons.
Bates admits he has one eye on the historic final round of the WRC season.
“The World Rally Championship is very tight so I’m looking forward to following Ott Tänak, Thierry Neuville and Séb Ogier in their championship battle,” he said.
“Their (race) is even tighter than ours so it will be really, really interesting in Coffs.”
Taylor held the championship lead 12 months ago heading into Rally Australia but a catastrophic engine failure put paid to her dream of being crowned Australia’s best for a second straight year.
She said having the World Rally Championship drivers in the same field as her was always exciting – but it’s a show she’ll be trying to ignore.
“I try not to get distracted with what’s happening in the WRC field and we’ll do our job but it’s great to have them around,” said Taylor, who made history at Coffs Harbour in 2016 as the first female champion.
Kennards Hire Rally Australia kicks off tomorrow with a free Rally Show and Ceremonial Start from 4pm at the Coffs Harbour Jetty Foreshores.
The first of 24 competition stages starts at 8am on Friday. Tickets to spectator points around the course over three days are still available from www.rallyaustralia.com.au.
Rally Australia is supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW.