Shipmans is identical to the 2011 test, but with a new 300 metres added to the end. It is fast with little gravel on the surface and a large part of the stage runs on clay. It is well known for a deep watersplash and also as the test in which Sebastien Ogier crashed two years ago. The stage is named after the Shipman family, who were early settlers to the area in 1848 and their descendants still live on the route.
How the action unfolded:
Sebastien Ogier completed a drama-free final morning in Coates Hire Rally Australia, extending his lead to 53.3sec after claiming his second stage win in Shipmans, the longest test of this third and final leg.
The Frenchman journeyed back to the Coffs Harbour service park knowing that, barring any errors, just 62.57km stand between him and a maiden world title in Volkswagen’s first season in WRC.
After losing today’s opener by a tenth of a second to Mikko Hirvonen, Ogier restored order by winning the next two. He was 2.3sec clear of team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala in Shipmans and if the tension was getting to him, he certainly didn’t show it.
“I like this stage but I don’t have a good memory of it from two years ago,” smiled the Frenchman, who retired from the lead of Rally Australia here in 2011 when he hit a tree and damaged his Citroen DS3’s radiator.
Latvala finished the stage with a perplexed look on his face as his Polo R trailed about four metres of fence wire from its rear left suspension. “I can’t understand where that came from. I haven’t been off the road,” said the Finn.
Mikko Hirvonen was four tenths of a second behind his fellow countryman in a DS3, with Thierry Neuville 4.5sec further back in his Ford Fiesta RS after an early drama.
“I made a small mistake at the first split and lost three or four seconds,” said the Belgian. “It happened at a third gear left. I understood the pace note but realised too late that I must slow more and I had to spin the car a bit.”
Fiesta twins Mads Ostberg and Evgeny Novikov were fifth and sixth but there was little appetite for a fight as the front-runners appear settled in their positions, happy to check their pace notes for the Power Stage which is run over the second pass this afternoon.