The WRC title contenders will need to make sure their pace note-making skills are on point at this weekend’s Kennards Hire Rally Australia (15-18 November) as the route features 16 new or modified stages.
With only eight of the 24 tests running the same as they did in 2017, title protagonists Sébastien Ogier, Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak will need to draw on all their experience if they’re to find success on the New South Wales gravel stages.
The final round of the season gets underway on Friday morning with a blast through the 8.77km Orara East test.
Crews will then tackle Coldwater (14.12km) – based on roads used to make up the Shipmans test in 2014 – and Sherwood (26.68km), which stays the same as last year.
After a mid-leg service at Coffs Harbour, the opening trio of stages are repeated in the afternoon. Two runs of the 1.27km Destination NSW SSS18 super special stage complete the day.
Friday (16 November) - WRC+ Live Stream from 07:30 until 18:15 local rally time (UTC+11)
Saturday is the longest day of the rally, with crews heading to the south west of Coffs Harbour to tackle 10 speed tests.
The action begins with the Argents Hill Reverse (13.13km) and Welshs Creek Reverse (28.83km) stages. Both feature sections of road taken from the legendary Nambucca test.
Urunga (21.28km) is next up and uses roads from the former Newry test, while the following 1.99km Raleigh super special stage is run in the opposite direction to last year.
A trip back to the service park breaks up the day, before the four stages are repeated. Two more passes of the spectator-friendly Destination NSW SSS18 test complete the second leg.
Saturday (17 November) - WRC+ Live Stream from 07:00 until 18:15 local rally time (UTC+11)
The final day consists of three stages that will be run twice. The 15.55km Coramba stage kicks things off nice and early.
The 19.27km Sapphire test is next up and uses sections of the previously used Pilbara, Eastbank and Bucca16 stages. Crews then head to Wedding Bells18 (7.16km). The second pass of the latter test hosts the Live TV Power Stage.
Sunday (18 November) - WRC+ Live Stream from 06:00 until 15:00 local rally time (UTC+11)
- The Destination New South Wales super special stage. Used on Friday and Saturday night, the short test is located on the waterfront in Coffs Harbour. The sight of rally cars powering along the picturesque beachside is memorable.
- A family day out. Saturday’s Raleigh stage will be driven twice for the first time. Convenient access at the raceway-based test means it’s a great location for children and there’s plenty to do between passes.
- Celebrity spotting. Oscar winner Russell Crowe owns a cattle farm just outside Coffs Harbour. The Gladiator star is a fan of rallying, so don’t be surprised to see him stage-side, watching the WRC crews at maximum attack.
3 days to Australia Tänak claims first ‘win’
Ogier, Neuville and Tänak face-off – on toboggans!
4 days to Australia: Wilson: ‘This is rallying at its best’
Dramatic season finale is expected in Australia
VIDEO: PREVIEW MAGAZINE Kennards Hire Rally Australia 2018
VIDEO: PREVIEW MAGAZINE - Kennards Hire Rally Australia 2018