Wednesday | 16 Sep 2015

Australia driver report: part one

We analyse how the top drivers fared on the gravel roads of Coates Hire Rally Australia.

Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20)
A steady, trouble-free run netted Neuville [above] an okay-ish seventh place but as the Hyundai team leader we were expecting much more. The Belgian struggled to find a decent rhythm on Friday's slippery stages and his confidence won't have been helped by the fact that both his team-mates were doing considerably better. He found some fight on Saturday, when he was scrapping with Sordo for seventh, but team orders meant this was a battle he couldn't really lose. Declared himself satisfied to have collected some points for Hyundai, but this wasn't one of his better rallies.   

Lorenzo Bertelli (Ford Fiesta RS)
Another rally to forget for the Italian. On the opening day he was troubled by wayward handling - despite a decent position in the start order - and later said his Fiesta was undriveable when he also lost the handbrake. He returned on Saturday but wasn't able to do much before his engine expired with a fuel-injector problem. Back again on Sunday, Bertelli had a difficult job opening the roads, then went off on the final stage and damaged the left-rear corner. He emerged from the stage with the loss of four minutes but retired at the finish control.

Elfyn Evans (Ford Fiesta RS)
This was an extremely disappointing event for Evans who was unable to get to grips with the Australian roads. He lacked feeling and confidence from the start, and took a further knock when a spin and a puncture on stage four plunged him down the standings. From then on his times were below par and his end of stage comments consistently bleak as he struggled to understand what was going wrong. He found no answers in Australia and is hoping that a post mortem at M-Sport's base in the UK will turn up something.

Sébastien Ogier (Volkswagen Polo R)
Of all the events this year, Australia was where Ogier felt he would suffer most from the road sweeping disadvantage of running first in the start order. He went as far as to say that on paper at least a win looked impossible. Which makes his sublime, championship-winning victory all the more impressive. Somehow the Frenchman managed to find confidence and grip where others couldn't and kept himself close enough to spring into the lead on Saturday's repeated tests. That called for some incredible skill - but having run first on the road so often this year, Ogier reckons he's better at it now than ever before.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Volkswagen Polo R)
This was another terrific rally for Jari-Matti but in the end he was not quite quick enough to reel in his team-mate. A lack of confidence on day one meant he couldn't make the most of Ogier's racing line ahead, but the battle was really lost on Saturday's opening Nambucca test where he admitted to briefly 'losing the spark to fight'. Three stages from home he insisted he was still fighting to win, but with the competition so evenly matched there was simply too much to make up.

Hayden Paddon (Hyundai i20)
Not quite the Paddon podium he and his army of fans were after, but fifth was a great result nonetheless for Hayden after a faulty diff limited his potential on the opening day. Back to full speed on Saturday, he impressed with two stages wins - including the 50km Nambucca - and kept things neat and tidy through Sunday's tests to wrap up his fourth top-five result of the season. The result was proof that Hyundai made the right decision to promote him to the factory squad. We won't be surprised if he's back there later this year.

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