COFFS COAST (NSW) – They may be some of the fastest men on the road, but four drivers in the FIA World Rally Championship were “all at sea” when they enjoyed some outdoor fun today before their season finale at Kennards Hire Rally Australia.
Andreas Mikkelsen from Norway, Jari-Matti Latvlala from Finland, Ott Tänak from Estonia and Stéphane Lefebvre from France will be among the field of 78 crews undertaking two days of pre-event reconnaissance on the 320 kilometre route from tomorrow.
But in sunny 25 deg C weather they took to Coffs Harbour under expert instruction to learn paddleboarding – and took a few refreshing tumbles into the sea before mastering the skill of stand-up board riding.
Between rides, last year’s Rally Australia winner Mikkelsen said he was looking forward to targeting victory again, but with a different team. He drove last year for Volkswagen, but will line up in 2017 for Hyundai.
“The plan this weekend is to try to repeat the success of last year,” Mikkelsen said.
“I haven’t had many rallies with Hyundai yet – only two – so I’m still adapting a bit to the car and the team.
“Rally Australia is probably my favourite rally of the year. I have really high hopes for a win again this year – that would be awesome.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Jari-Matti Latvala enjoys watersports including water-skiiing on the lakes in his native Finland, but his natural taste for speed brought him undone in the Pacific Ocean waters.
“The paddleboarding was great. I’m familiar with the lakes but no so much the sea. Then of course I wanted to go faster and faster and I fell in the water,” Latvala said.
“After this we have to concentrate on the rally. It would be nice to finish the season in a high position so hopefully we will be there to fight for the top three.”
Kennards Hire Rally Australia kicks off with a free Rally Show and Ceremonial Start in the centre of Coffs Harbour from 4pm on Thursday.
Competition starts at 8.13am on Friday and finishes with the globally-televised Power Stage in Wedding Bells State Forest on Sunday afternoon, before a Podium presentation back in the city from 3.30pm.
Fan highlights include daytime spectating locations in the forests, the Destination NSW Super Special Stage at the Coffs Harbour Jetty recreation precinct on Friday and Saturday evenings and free concerts, fireworks, driver interview sessions and other attractions at the competitors’ service park at C,ex Coffs International Stadium.
Tickets are on sale at ticket.com.