COFFS COAST (NSW) – Norway’s Mads Østberg has emerged as leader of Kennards Hire Rally Australia after an incident-packed start to the FIA World Rally Championship finale on the New South Wales Coffs Coast this morning.
Ostberg dramatically upped his tempo in the factory Citroen C3 to snatch a 5.4-second lead after the 26.68km Sherwood special stage, the third of eight scheduled today.
Going into the midday service break Esappeka Lappi was second ahead of Toyota teammate and fellow Finn Jari-Matti Latvala.
Ireland’s Craig Breen (Citroën) is fourth ahead of Kiwi Hayden Paddon in a Hyundai i20. Breen reported brake problems as did Ostberg in the other C3.
Toyota’s Ott Tänak fared best of the three drivers fighting for the WRC title, placed sixth overall and 7.8s off the lead.
Tänak had a lucky escape through the Sherwood test when he speared heavily into a bank, ending the stage with a puncture.
Championship leader Sebastien Ogier (M-Sport Ford), who acted as road-sweeper from first starting position this morning, is buried down the order, 27.6s off the lead in 10th, one place behind his closest rival, Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville.
The Toyota team took an impressive hat-trick in the opening encounter, with Lappi shading Tanak and Latvala.
Top 10 positions after SS3:
1 Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroen) 25min34.4secs
2 Esapekka Lappi/ Janne Ferm (Toyota) +5.4s
3 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota) 5.8s
4 Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen) +7s
5 Hayden Paddon/Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai) +7.3s
6 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Toyota) +7.8s
7 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (M-Sport Ford) +13.6s
8 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (M-Sport Ford) 14.8s
9 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai) + 19.2s
10 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (M-Sport Ford) +27.6s
The battle for the CAMS Australian Rally Championship driver’s title was thrown wide open after championship leader Eli Evans suffered a broken radiator during the third stage today.
Evans had set a fast pace, winning the opening two stages, but a heavy landing just short of halfway through the Sherwood stage damaged to his Skoda Fabia R5 and it was unable to finish the stage.
Evans’ catastrophe was the climax of a dramatic morning.
The Subaru WRX of fellow title contender Molly Taylor caught fire on the second stage. Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were quickly able to extinguish the small blaze and the two reported the were uninjured, but the incident was a disastrous start to their rally.
The leader after the first morning was Harry Bates, by 3m20s over Steve Glenney, who dropped three minutes on the third stage after a flat tyre, a spin and a stall.