Preview: Rally Australia to be an exciting season finale
- 14th November 2016, 1:11am
Kennards Hire Rally Australia will bring an exciting WRC season to a close on the beautiful Coffs Coast, and with the recent announcement of Volkswagen’s exit from the sport, it is poised to be a thrilling battle for victory.
All three Volkswagen drivers will aim to give the team the best send off possible after the shocking ‘Vexit’ announcements, and who can write any of them off?
World Champion, Sebastien Ogier, starts at a disadvantage being first on the road, but has won from that position before.
He will be aiming for a record fourth Rally Australia win in a row.
Jari-Matti Latvala, starting sixth on the road, has a big chance for victory. Beaten by Ogier the previous two years, Latvala has an obvious road position advantage this time, and has nothing to lose.
Look for the Finn to make a statement early on day one.
Andreas Mikkelsen too has nothing to lose, and perhaps everything to gain.
Situated 17 points behind good friend Neuville in the title race, a victory could see the two-time round winner leapfrog into second in the title race - the first Hyundai driver to do so.
New Zealander Hayden Paddon will be pushing hard on what, for him, is the closest rally to a home event.
Paddon has competed on the Coffs Harbour roads four times already, and will have plenty of Kiwi support from across the ditch.
His last two trips to Australia have netted him sixth and fifth places, and a podium or win is not out of the realms of possibility.
He will be going flat out for the victory, and from fourth on the road, it’s a great chance for him to start well, and potentially be within striking distance on the final day.
A perfect weekend for him would secure second place in the drivers’ title.
His Hyundai team-mates, Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo, will likely have differing goals for the weekend.
Neuville is unlikely to take many risks, as he will be trying to confirm his second place in the championship.
Victory for the Belgian is perhaps unlikely, but expect a strong showing, as he has been remarkably consistent since his victory in Italy.
Don’t discount Dani Sordo for a top result either. He was fast in Australia last year. Starting from fifth on the road will give him an advantage over both his teammates.
M-Sport’s Mads Ostberg and Eric Camilli may not have shown the pace they would have liked this year, but in this final round will be out to prove that this season has not gone unnoticed.
Ostberg, in possibly his last drive for M-Sport, will look for his trademark consistency to give him a good points scoring finish.
Camilli on the other hand, has no experience in Australia, and a mistake free run would be a successful weekend for the Frenchman.
Dmack World Rally Team driver, Ott Tank has a good road position, but don't expect his tyres to work as well as they did last time out in GB.
The 30-degree Australian heat is likely to suit the Michelin tyres compared to Tanak’s Dmacks. However, if the weather turns sour and becomes wet, don’t be surprised if he puts in a charge and marches on into the top five places.
The final World Rally Car, driven by Lorenzo Bertelli, has a real chance for a points scoring finish, and on his third trip to Australia has relatively good experience on these roads.
It’s great to see him in this neck of the woods again, and the stunning looking Fiesta will be a joy to watch and photograph.
There may be no Citroen presence this year, but as this is the final event for Volkswagen and this generation of World Rally Car, so it is sure be a closely fought battle.
Gossip and rumours will be flying around left right and centre concerning Ogier, Latvala and Mikkelsen, but as usual, the greatest action will be out on the stages.
It poses a great finale to an unbelievable season.
- Luke Whitten
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