Photo by Jeremy Rogers
(14/9/2013) VOLKSWAGEN star Sébastien Ogier has extended his lead after the first half of Day Two of the FIA World Rally Championship round on the Coffs Coast tody.
Ogier came into the second day of Coates Hire Rally Australia with a 20-second buffer after winning seven of yesterday’s eight stages and quickly showed he was just as serious about Day Two.
After two stages, including the longest in the rally (49.9km), he was 27.6 seconds ahead of his nearest rival, three-time Rally Australia winner Mikko Hirvonen (Citroën).
Ogier can secure his maiden WRC title this weekend if he collects nine points more than closest rival, Thierry Neuville (Ford) who is currently in third place on the event, 32 seconds behind Hirvonen.
Hirvonen and Ogier were closely matched through much of the monster Nambucca stage 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. I don’t think it’s going to be enough to beat him. I just can’t make any mistakes.”
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.
“At the moment everything is going perfectly for us. Today, and the rally, is long so there’s still a lot to do. By driving clean I am going fast and of course having fun.”
Coffs Coast local Nathan Quinn is also having fun, as he continues to hold down ninth place after a solid debut in the Motorsport Italia-prepared Mini Countryman John Cooper Works.
In his first-ever drive of a WRC car, he’s running second on the road and is nearly seven minutes behind Ogier, but a full minute ahead of WRC regular Khalid Al Qassimi (Citroen), who rounds out the top 10.
“I drove a bit more respectably this last stage and it was much better,” Quinn said.
“We were probably a bit silly in the first stage and maybe were a bit soft in this one – but I got the spectator point right so that’s good. Living large!”
Crews will had a midday break back in Coffs Harbour for service before heading out to repeat the morning’s stages.
They then return to the city for the final two runs over the spectator-friendly ARMOR ALL Super Special Stage. It will be the event’s biggest night, featuring not only the stadium-style competition but also a performance by X-Factor winner Samantha Jade and fireworks to wrap up three sensational evenings of entertainment.
The rally will finish at the Brelsford Park Rally Hub with podium presentations at 4pm.