Less than three weeks after the asphalt roads of Germany, the World Rally Championship is back on gravel for round ten – the final flyaway event of the season. And with the 2013 title almost within reach of Volkswagen ace Sebastien Ogier, a thrilling event is in store on Australia’s east coast.
The rally is based in Coffs Harbour, half way between Sydney and Brisbane on the Mid-North Coast region of New South Wales.
This will be the WRC’s second visit to the town - the first was in 2011, with Rally Australia then alternating with Rally New Zealand. Like in 2011, the stages this year are a mixture of hard base roads with fast and flowing and tight and twisty sections running through a combination of open areas and dense rainforests.
With trees lining the roads in many places, drivers will have to have to trade ultimate pace with a degree of caution to avoid any unnecessary damage. Road cleaning will also play a major role, especially if conditions are dry, with drivers running at the front of the field leaving a swept racing line for those behind.
New for 2013 is a rally hub in the centre of Coffs Harbour, which incorporates the service park and a mixed surface super special stage which runs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. It features two cars at a time with a simultaneous start on opposite sides of a former velodrome oval, before breaking out onto surrounding streets and finishing back in the oval.
The rest of the route has had a makeover too, with organisers using the most popular stages from 2011 and introducing new tests with shorter road sections to deliver one of the WRC’s most compact events ever, with two of the three legs never straying more than 35km from Coffs Harbour.
The event will commence on Thursday 12th September with the qualifying stage, followed by a rally show and ceremonial start then the first attempt at the super special.
Friday comprises a trio of brand new tests located south of the rally base near the town of Bellingen. The tests are run consecutively and then repeated after a 30-minute service halt. The day closes with the second pass though the super special.
Saturday features a pair of countryside stages: Valla, which is unchanged from 2011, and a new 49.9km monster called Nambucca, made by linking two tests from 2011. The two are run once in the morning and then repeated after a midpoint service. The day concludes with the final visit to the Coffs super special.
Sunday has another trio of stages with two new ones - Bucca and Wedding Bells - and the demanding 29km Shipman’s that was used in 2011. The stages are repeated in the afternoon with Shipman’s concluding the rally as the bonus points Power Stage. Competitors then return to Coffs Harbour for the podium in the Rally Hub at 1600hrs.
Coming up on wrc.com