World champion Sébastien Ogier headed a Volkswagen Motorsport 1-2 in Thursday morning’s shakedown at Kennards Hire Rally Australia.
He set the fastest time in his third and final run through the 5.02km Boyds Road speed test, edging Polo R team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen by a tenth of a second.
Jari-Matti Latvala set the pace through the opening run in his Polo R, before Thierry Neuville powered his Hyundai i20 to the top of the standings after the second pass. Both were later overhauled by Ott Tänak, who finished third in a Ford Fiesta RS.
Ogier was first into the stage and had a taste of things to come when he opens the roads for the first two legs on Friday and Saturday. The loose gravel was deep and the Frenchman’s quickest time was more than 11sec faster than his opening effort on unused roads.
“It’s such an incredible cleaning effect we have seen this morning,” he said. “By our calculations it is between 0.2sec - 0.3sec per car per kilometre faster. It’s always difficult here but during the recce a lot of people said it was even worse than previous years. I didn’t expect so much.”
Even Monday night’s massive rainstorm in the host town of Coffs Harbour offered no respite for the early starters.
“When we started the recce on Tuesday morning I never saw any marks of humidity anywhere. It is completely dry and dusty,” Ogier added.
Neuville and team-mate Paddon tied in fourth with Latvala completing the top six, a tenth of a second behind the Hyundai duo.
Leading shakedown times
|1||Ogier||VW Polo R||3m01.5s|
|2||Mikkelsen||VW Polo R||3m01.6s|
|3||Tanak||Ford Fiesta RS||3m02.3s|
|=4||Neuville||Hyundai i20 WRC||3m02.5s|
|=4||Paddon||Hyundai i20 WRC||3m02.5s|
|6||Latvala||VW Polo R||3m02.6s|
|7||Camilli||Ford Fiesta RS||3m03.3s|
|8||Ostberg||Ford Fiesta RS||3m03.5s|
|9||Sordo||Hyundai i20 WRC||3m04.2s|
|10||Bertelli||Ford Fiesta RS||3m10.5s|