COFFS COAST (NSW) – New world champion Sébastien Ogier tops a star-studded list of international drivers who will contest the closing round of the FIA World Rally Championship at Kennards Hire Rally Australia on the New South Wales Coffs Coast next month.
Ogier, who won his fourth straight title in Spain last weekend, was nominated by his Volkswagen Motorsport team when entries for Australia closed last night.
The line-up for the 17-20 November event remains provisional until ratified by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, but will include 10 crews representing Volkswagen, Hyundai, M-Sport Ford and other top-level teams in the outright category, plus internationals in the WRC2 division and Australian privateers, in makes such as Citroen, Peugeot, Skoda, Subaru and Mitsubishi.
Entries for the final round of the 2016 Kumho Tyres Australian Rally Championship, to be run over the same weekend and course as the world championship, close on October 27.
Clerk of Course Wayne Kenny says the final seeded entry list will feature the fastest rally drivers in the world and in Australia – and promises there will still be plenty to fight for even though the 2016 drivers’ and co-drivers’ titles were decided at last weekend’s 11th round.
“Sébastien Ogier was a clear winner, but the competition for second and third positions in the championship is still wide open, with six drivers still mathematically in contention and two rounds remaining – Great Britain later this month and then Kennards Hire Rally Australia. The manufacturers’ championship also is in contention.
“WRC2 is undecided and we’ll be welcoming the factory Skoda team of Kopecky and Lappi, former Junior World Rally Champion Nicolas Fuchs from Peru and several other internationals,” Mr Kenny said.
“I’m particularly pleased to see the likes of Australians Brendan Reeves and Molly Taylor step up as WRC privateers, waving the flag for our great Australian rally-driving talent and taking the chance to test themselves against some of the best from the rest of the world.
“Brendan and Molly already have extensive international experience under their wheels, but we strongly support all Australian drivers entering their WRC home round to help their development. It’s good to see even some State competitors have taken the step.”
Rally Australia driver ambassador Reeves, who has competed in the world championship as well as in the Asia-Pacific, New Zealand, United States and Australia, submitted his entry while assisting Hyundai Motorsport at WRC Rally de Espańa last weekend.
“To compete against the world’s best on our home turf is an incredible feeling,” Reeves said.
“The extra media coverage and huge support around the event is also a massive bonus for me to enter the WRC section.”
Taylor, who has been ranked the world’s top female rally driver since 2013, is looking forward to competing at home in her factory Subaru against drivers she challenged in Europe.
“We’re doing it for the opportunity to compete within the WRC, because there are not too many chances to do that from Australia,” she said.
The showdown for the 2016 Australian title will be the closest in the competition’s history. Four-time champion Simon Evans leads the standings with 251 points, with Molly Taylor on 246 and Harry Bates on 245.
Whoever wins will have a story to tell – Evans is the country’s fastest driver but would win in the championship’s oldest car, while Taylor would be the first female champion and 21-year-old Bates the youngest.