The M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team will face their biggest challenge of the season as they travel to unfamiliar territory in Australia to tackle the tenth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Coffs Harbour - famous for its stunning coastline and as the birthplace of Hollywood film star Russell Crowe – will host this year’s Rally Australia and see WRC drivers tackle 28 gravel stages covering 382.60 km in the shires of Nambucca, Bellingen, and Clarence Valley.  It will mark the first time since last year’s Rallye de France that the WRC crews will face a completely new set of rally stages at an event.
Evgeny Novikov will be competing at Rally Australia for the first time next week in his Ford Fiesta RS WRC, but the Russian is no stranger to contesting new events after tackling Rally Mexico for the first time back in March.  Despite a series of unlucky setbacks in the WRC this season, the 20-year-old driver has also posted a string of blisteringly quick stage times and has been running in the top three on two occasions already this year.
Novikov will be partnered by experienced co-driver Denis Giraudet and the pair have been nominated as official point-scorers for the M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team in Australia.
Matthew Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin have had a strong season, having failed to finish on only one round of the championship in their Ford Fiesta RS WRC.  The pair have taken seven points-finishes in nine events and will be looking to maintain their consistent record in Australia.
Wilson finished sixth at 2009’s Rally Australia and will looking to emulate a similar result at this year’s event. The 24-year-old driver will be the second nominated points-scorer for M-Sport Stobart in Australia.
Norway’s Henning Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor will be the third crew to fly the flag for the Cumbria-based squad down under.  Solberg will be contesting Rally Australia for the third time next week and will be looking to beat his personal best of seventh from 2009’s event.
Since ADAC Rallye Deutschland Solberg has been preparing for the 2011 Solberg Extreme Motor Show, and on Wednesday he travelled to Stavanger along with his brother Petter and M-Sport Stobart team-mate Mads Østberg for the annual event in Norway. The event was held at Viking Stadium, which was transformed into an all-asphalt playground for thousands of excited spectators.
Before heading north to Coffs Harbour Solberg and Wilson will both make a stop in Sydney, where they will take part in promotional activities planned by the rally organisers - including a visit to the famous Sydney Tower.
Matthew Wilson said:
“I’m really looking forward to Australia but it’s going to feel strange going to a completely new rally location as we’ve not had one since France last year.  For sure it’s not going to be easy as we have to prepare new pacenotes from scratch, but everybody has to do the same so it’s a good challenge and will make it a level playing field for everyone competing. I really don’t know what to expect from this rally – I’ve heard that most of the stages have been used for national rallies but that some of the others haven’t been used competitively for a number of years. We’ve got a few runs on the Super Special which always provides an incredible atmosphere and it’s great for spectators too.”
Evgeny Novikov said:
“Australia will be a difficult rally as we’ve never been there before but we have to start first and then we'll see how it goes. The World Rally Championship has no easy stages and I am sure that Australia will be no different, but I think that we must concentrate on a good recce and only push when we feel confident that everything is going well. This year my task has been just to finish and not anything more than that. This time it will be a fairer rally for everyone as nobody will know the roads.  I just want to get out there, enjoy myself, get more experience and hope that a good result will follow.”
Henning Solberg said:
“I really enjoy the long-haul events – they’re exciting and have a good buzz about them. The last couple of rallies have gone quite well but I’d really like to push more on this rally and get back into the top five again.  It’s a new rally so I don’t know what to expect but I’ve heard that the roads will be less aggressive than the stages they used for 2009’s event.  From what I know a lot of them are forest-based so they’re sure to be quite fast, but these are the type of roads that suit my driving style best. I will just try to learn as much as I can about them on the recce and hope that I can find a good feeling at Shakedown so I am ready to push from the start.”

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