PHOTO (download): Australia’s Chris Atkinson among world’s fastest rally drivers at Coates Hire Rally Australia (Hyundai pic).
THE fastest rally drivers on the planet, including current Champion Sebastien Ogier, Formula 1 race winner Robert Kubica and Australia’s top international Chris Atkinson, are among 30 crews from 18 countries entered for the FIA World Rally Championship round on the New South Wales Coffs Coast in two weeks’ time.
Coates Hire Rally Australia on 11-14 September will be Round 10 of the WRC.
The official entry list announced today includes nine Australian-based crews stepping up to the international stage for their home event.
In addition, 42 two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, Classic and Side-by-Side vehicles are entered in the East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship fifth round, which will follow the WRC field on the 20-stage, 316 kilometre event.
The entry represents the highest standard in world rallying and promises a thrilling experience for spectators, Rally Australia Event Manager David Catchpole says.
“At the top of this list, the 11 drivers for the manufacturer teams representing Volkswagen, Hyundai, Citroen and M-Sport (Ford) are men of extraordinary sporting talent,” Mr Catchpole said.
“They compete around the world in all conditions from Sweden to Monte Carlo to Mexico and in just two weeks’ time they will line up for the start in Coffs Harbour, the farthest destination on the 13-country WRC tour.
“Our sporting team led by Clerk of Course Adrian Stafford has prepared a course, including the Hyundai Super Special Stage over two nights, that will be a true test to the standard expected of a WRC event and an unmissable spectacle for fans.”
Rally Australia 2013 winner and current World Champion Sebastien Ogier of France, driving for Volkswagen Motorsport, heads the entry list followed by teammate Jari-Matti Latvala of Finland. Ogier is 44 points ahead of Latvala in the drivers’ standings and both will be fighting hard for a break in Australia.
Entries includes the winner of last weekend’s ADAC Rallye Deutschland, Thierry Neuville of Belgium, who celebrated the first WRC victories for himself and the Hyundai team and ended Volkswagen’s 12-event run of success.
“Home crowd” eyes will be on Neuville’s teammates Chris Atkinson of Australia and Hayden Paddon of New Zealand.
The other manufacturer team drivers are Kris Meeke (Great Britain, Citroen), Mads Ostberg (Citroen, Norway), Mikko Hirvonen (M-Sport, Finland), Elfyn Evans (M-Sport, Great Britain), Andreas Mikkelsen (Volkswagen, Norway) and Robert Kubica (RK M-Sport, Poland).
The first Australian-based driver on the list is Queensland Subaru driver Matt van Tuinen.
Starting order for the first day’s Special Stages on Friday 12 September will be announced the night before.
The 72-car WRC and ARC field will be on display at the Coates Hire Rally Show and official start in the Coffs Harbour city centre from 1pm Thursday.
Tickets for Coates Hire Rally Australia are on sale at NRMAtix through the event website www.rallyaustralia.com.au. The website also carries comprehensive spectating information, including timetables, maps and schedules for the free Michelin Shuttle service to the weekend rally villages.
The Rally Australia program also will feature the Pedders Suspension Coffs Coast 400, an off-road championship round on a separate course north of Coffs Harbour. Tickets are available from NRMAtix.