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Five WA drivers will line up with the world’s best at the Coates Hire Rally Australia around the Coffs Coast from September 12 to 15.

The event is round 10 of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) and Maxy Rally’s Razvan Vlad can’t wait to compete with the top-level teams.

“I love taking part in the WRC section as I get to meet the world's best drivers, see the lines they take through the corners and maybe learn something,” he said.

The entry list includes French driver Sebastian Ogier (Volkswagen), who leads the WRC; Belgium’s Thierry Neuville (Ford), who’s in second place after finishing second at Rally Deutschland last weekend; Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen (Citroen), who’s won the event three times before; and Coffs Harbour hotshot Nathan Quinn who’ll compete in a Mini with former WA co-driver Glenn Macneall.

Vlad, who two weeks ago finished second in the Challenge Modern division of WA’s premier tarmac rally, Targa West, is aiming to be the fastest 2WD competitor in his Ford Fiesta but knows Rally Australia will be a challenging event.

“The length of some of the stages will be an issue. We are just not used to 50 kilometre stages in WA,” he said.

Mike Civil is another WA entrant and is competing in his first event outside of the state in more than a decade.

To be eligible for the WRC section, Civil had to return his Mitsubishi Evo 9 to a Group N car and said: “Hopefully the power drop from unrestricted PRC 5 to Group N won’t be too painful.”

Civil, who competed in Rally Australia twice when it was a Perth-based event, will have son Jack, 19, who was WA Rally Championship Rookie Co-Driver of 2011, calling the instructions.

Coates Hire Rally Australia is also the fifth and second last round of the 2013 East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship (ARC).

Tom Wilde, who’s in third spot on the ARC leader board, heads into the event off the back of his best result of the year.  The Busselton driver finished second ARC in his Renault Clio at the International Rally of Queensland (IROQ) and is high on confidence.

“I want to keep improving. I believe I've got what it takes to win [the ARC section of the rally] and I'm not giving myself any excuses. I'm going to drive with 100% confidence and see where we finish.”

Nicholas Box also had his biggest finish for the year at IROQ but, despite finishing fourth ARC, said he’s still not confident driving his Nissan370Z ‘at 100 per cent’.

The Allstar Garage driver said one of his biggest focusses will be his pace notes.

“I found a big issue with my notes in Queensland and will write them differently for Coffs,” he said.

“I’ll hopefully be more confident in the notes and be able to push harder.”

Box’s 2WD teammate Sean Keating will make his interstate debut at Rally Australia and expects the event to be a learning experience.

“I think I will be getting used to the different surfaces and making sure the notes are correct and just settling the nerves being in such a big event.”

Also flying the flag for WA is co-driver Ben Searcy who’ll compete with Victorian Steve Mackenzie.

The pair usually competes in a Ford Fiesta but recently announced they had secured a deal to bring a Peugeot 207 to the event.

Coates Hire Rally Australia kicks off on Thursday September 12 and is run over shire and forestry roads around Coffs Harbour, Nambucca, Bellingen and Clarence Valley areas.

The event has attracted competitors from Finland, France, Great Britain, Norway, Russia, Qatar, Ukraine, Venezuela and Argentina.
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