Fight for Australia lead tightens further
Less than six seconds cover the top five drivers
Both tests were identical to 2013. Bellingen threaded through forests on narrow roads, with trees close to the edge. It was undulating with plenty of dips and jumps. Newry was fast and flowing but rough in places, with narrow sections in the forests.
Thierry Neuville dropped almost two minutes and plunged from sixth to 11th in Coates Hire Rally Australia after breaking the rear suspension in his Hyundai i20 in the Bellingen stage.
“I went a little wide in one of the first corners and hit a stone or something at the exit. I thought it was OK but 1km afterwards something broke and the wheel was moving. A small part in the rear suspension had broken but I was able to fix it and continue,” he said.
Also in trouble was team-mate Chris Atkinson who lost more than a minute in Newry. His i20 trailed its sump guard all afternoon and the rear began to handle awkwardly midway through the test.
“I didn’t understand what it was and I didn’t want to take any risks. We’ll take a look at service tonight. We need to take the sump guard off and check it out but we didn’t have time between stages,” explained Atkinson.
To complete an unhappy couple of stages for the Korean manufacturer, Hayden Paddon reported a loose brake pedal and a flashing oil pressure warning light in his i20.
Jari-Matti Latvala was fastest through both stages from Sébastien Ogier in Volkswagen Polo Rs. He climbed from fifth to second, just 2.1sec behind Kris Meeke, with Ogier 0.5sec back in third.
Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Hirvonen, who were tied in second, ceded a few seconds and were fourth and fifth.