AUSTRALIA’S Scott Pedder and Dale Moscatt will return to Vodafone Rally de Portugal to start a second season in the FIA World Rally Championship this weekend, with high hopes of building on a successful debut last year.

The 2014 Australian Rally Champions will compete in a Pedders Suspension Rally Team Skoda Fabia R5 car in the WRC2 category, against some of the sport’s hottest rising stars from Europe and Britain.

Pedder, from Melbourne, and Moscatt, from Sydney, were scheduled to test their car yesterday and today in Portugal before lining up for the Thursday ceremonial start in Guimarães in the north of the country.

The 370-kilometre rally will start on Thursday night, local time, with two short spectator stages at nearby Lousada. These will be followed by a further 17 stages and three full days of competition on gravel roads – a surface more familiar to the experienced Australians than to some of their European rivals.

After Portugal, the pair plans to contest WRC2 rounds in Poland, Finland and China before returning to their “home” event, Kennards Hire Rally Australia on the New South Wales Coffs Coast on 17-20 November. Pedder’s best WRC2 result last year was an outstanding fourth in the infamously fast Rally Finland.

He is confident a switch to new, British-run host team AutoTek Motorsport and the Skoda Fabia R5, after a Ford Fiesta R5 in 2015, will see him take an important step forward this season.

“Last year we had high expectations, maybe a little unrealistic in hindsight, because I was learning not only events for the first time but also a brand-new car,” he said.

“But we proved in Poland and then in Finland that we have the pace to really be right up there with the front runners.

“This year Dale and I return with the knowledge of the events, especially Portugal, and while we’ll be in a new car with the Skoda it’s going to be very similar to the Ford we drove last year, so I’m comfortable it won’t be such a new challenge.

“I’m far more confident we’ll start Portugal this year with a strong setup in the car and then we’ll refine it more as the rally progresses, but (it will be) nothing like last year where we had no basis to work from and I spent every stage trying to work out how to get the car to work for me and my style.”

Pedder began cautiously on the 2015 Rally de Portugal and, having set some promising stage times, was caught out in deep ruts and left the road. Twelve months on he’s more determined than ever to return to the gravel event and show what he’s capable of.

“I could take a very conservative mindset into the rally and drive around looking for others to retire to get a good result. But that’s never served me well in the past. In fact, when I drive to my natural instinct is when I’ve achieved not only my best results, like at Rally Finland last year, but also my most consistent finishing record,” he said.

“I have the advantage this year of being able to push, I know the roads which are practically identical to 2015 and, while it’ll be a new car, it’s a very similar type of car to last year so I know what to expect from it and how to get the best out of it.

“Our aim is a top-three or -four finish. We know the competition will be fierce again, even though a couple of the top drivers from last year haven’t elected to return.

“It’s a shame not to be able to benchmark ourselves again Nasser Al-Attiyah and Esapekka Lappi, but there are 25 other high-quality drivers including factory teams from Ford and Skoda, so we’re going to face a tough challenge and I can’t wait!”

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Twitter:     @scottpeddercom or #scottpedder

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

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