Valla is one of just two stages that are the same as 2011. It starts on a good road with hardly any loose gravel, but at 5.8km it becomes increasingly slippery. There are also small sections of asphalt. It uses both wide and narrow roads, with half the test in the open and the other half under the trees.
How the action unfolded:
Sebastien Ogier continued his seemingly unstoppable progress by claiming his fourth consecutive win today, and the Frenchman has now won all 10 of the bush stages in Coates Hire Rally Australia.
Ogier’s Volkswagen Polo R was quickest by 2.3sec from Thierry Neuville’s Ford Fiesta RS and he goes into tonight’s final two tests in downtown Coffs Harbour with a 42.2sec advantage over Mikko Hirvonen.
“We’ve extended the lead and it looks really good but there is another long day tomorrow,” said Ogier, who admitted the possibility of securing his maiden world title tomorrow was hard to ignore. “I have it a little bit in my mind,” he added.
Neuville took no risks, the Belgian aware his tyres were less than perfect after the previous 50km Nambucca test. “I was going quite well, but it was very slippery. The tyres are a bit used after the long one so I took it steady in places,” he said.
Jari-Matti Latvala was third in another Polo R, and the fourth-placed Finn sounded more upbeat than at any time so far. “It has been very, very frustrating. At some moments it’s not going well, then I think it’s OK, but then we get another setback. Now we are in the right direction again and this time I want to keep it like that,” he said.
Volkswagen colleague Andreas Mikkelsen was fourth and climbed to fourth overall. The Norwegian moved 1.0sec ahead of fellow countryman Mads Ostberg who dropped 20sec after going off the road in his Fiesta RS.
“We went wide in a corner going onto Tarmac. There was a lot of gravel going onto the Tarmac and it was more slippery than I expected and I went into a ditch. We hit something and spun around,” said a despondent Ostberg.
Hirvonen ceded 7.5sec to Ogier after finishing sixth. “The tyres are pretty used. I took it a bit easier to make sure I didn’t do any mistakes. We lost a bit but I think I can make it up tomorrow,” he explained.