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PHOTO: Adrian Coppin raises a spray of mud as he pitches his Toyota Corolla S2000 into a corner at the Kennards Hire Rally Australia launch today (Bruce Thomas pic)

NEW special stages with excellent viewing choices, worldwide live television coverage, greater local support and a more open fight for the FIA World Rally Championship look set to make the 2016 Kennards Hire Rally Australia the best in the event’s 25-year history.

The event on the New South Wales Coffs Coast on 17-20 November will welcome top manufacturer teams from Europe and the best competitors from around Australia to tackle a 315 kilometre course comprising 23 special stages designed to challenge the world’s fastest rally drivers.

The 2016 Kennards Hire Rally Australia was officially launched in Coffs Harbour today, 85 days before the event starts, with rally drivers Adrian Coppin, Nathan Quinn, Mark Beard and Mal Keough taking to a short section of the Wedding Bells special stage to demonstrate their speed in very wet conditions.

Chairman Ben Rainsford said everything was set for another successful event. Mr Rainsford disclosed the Channel Nine television network would show the rally, although formal agreements and arrangements had yet to finalised.

“Every year since we came to the Coffs Coast in 2011, Rally Australia has grown in popularity, partner support and organisational and presentation standards. Last year, it generated a $14.3 million boost to the regional economy,” Mr Rainsford said.

“The scheduling of Rally Australia 2016 as the closing round of the WRC season, a calendar position it hasn¹t held since 2005, brings new opportunities to develop and popularise the event.

“Our new Destination NSW Super Special Stage – at the Jetty precinct literally alongside Coffs Harbour – other special stage enhancements including to the exciting Flooded Gum spectator point on the final stage and truly spectacular opening and closing ceremonies will all be highlights for our ticket holders.

“WRC TV’s live coverage of the Friday Jetty super special and two passes through Wedding Bells on Sunday, plus its daily wrap shows and news feeds will showcase the region to a massive audience.

“In 2015, the Rally Australia TV audience was 68.24 million viewers, who saw a total of 588 broadcast hours, according to Repucom. Such exposure is of inestimable value to New South Wales, the Coffs coast and our major partners.

“Across the Coffs region, there has been a growing recognition in the past year of the benefits Rally Australia brings. It’s very pleasing that support from local businesses has increased significantly and will play an important part in ensuring the rally’s success and encouraging the wider community.”

While most of the competition roads to the north and south of the Coffs Harbour base are unchanged from 2015, organisers have added a second Super Special Stage at Raleigh, a 1.37 kms sprint at a multi-motorsports facility 20 kms south of Coffs Harbour on the Pacific Highway.

In an innovation designed to attract spectators, adult tickets will be just $10 and sold only at the gate.

At nine spectator points across the course, ticket holders will see stunning up-close action from the world’s fastest rally drivers in the world’s fastest rally cars. The contenders will include the Australian crew of Scott Pedder and co-driver Dale Moscatt, who have already distinguished themselves with a fourth-place finish in the WRC2 category this season.

And hopefully fans will see not only an exciting event, but also a battle to the end for top placings in the drivers’ world championship.

This year’s WRC has been the most open since 2012 and while Frenchman Sebastien Ogier is in the box seat to secure a fourth straight title, the diverse challenge of the remaining rounds in France, Spain, Great Britain and Australia could see the competition play out all the way to the podium in Coffs Harbour on 20 November.

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.