Thursday | 17 Sep 2015

Australia driver report: part 2

We analyse how the top drivers fared over the New South Wales gravel roads at Coates Hire Rally Australia in the second part of our summary.

Andreas Mikkelsen (Volkswagen Polo R)
Plenty of people had Australia as the rally where Mikkelsen would take his first win, with the help of a better road position than his team-mates for the first two days. But pushing too hard on the asphalt in Friday’s opening stage damaged his tyres and meant a cautious drive through the morning’s other tests. It left him 10sec off the lead and that was how he started Sunday’s final leg. On course to grab a podium from Meeke until a 10sec penalty for late check-in at mid-leg service meant he settled for fourth.

Kris Meeke (DS 3)
Meeke was under huge pressure after scoring only nine points from the previous four rounds. His response was magnificent. He used a good road position to lead for four stages on Friday and three more on Saturday. The Ulsterman was honest enough to admit he would not match the Volkswagens in more level conditions on Sunday and an overnight deficit of just 0.3sec grew quickly. However, he held off Mikkelsen for a deserved podium.

Ott Tänak (Ford Fiesta RS)
An up-and-down weekend for the Estonian. Stalling his engine and later spinning on Friday left him eighth after the opening leg. He climbed to sixth during a stellar Saturday morning and that was where he stayed. Four top three times proved the pace was there and sixth from his first appearance in the Coffs Coast stages in a World Rally Car was a pretty good weekend.

Dani Sordo (Hyundai i20)
Three fastest times in a row on Friday morning saw the Spaniard at the top of the leaderboard. His road position was a big contributory factor but it’s a long time since we saw that kind of pace from Sordo, especially as he hadn’t driven these roads before. Brake problems prompted a gradual decline down the order and eighth was a little disappointing after his early form. The asphalt in Corsica and Spain will give him a chance to shine again.

Stéphane Lefebvre (DS 3)
It’s too early to say Lefebvre will follow in the footsteps of the two Sébastiens as the latest graduate of France’s world champion factory. But after taking on the injured Mads Østberg’s drive little more than 12 hours before shakedown, he excelled. With only 5km experience of a World Rally Car on gravel, he produced a remarkably mature drive. Broken suspension on Friday meant opening the roads on Saturday, but that merely added to the experience gained.

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