Rally Australia – a closer look
- 16th October 2006, 12:20pm
19th Telstra Rally Australia WCR round 14
WHAT'S NEW IN AUSTRALIA IN 2006
The final world championship rally to be held in Western Australia.
There is one new stage (stage 5 Holyoake, replaces Turner Hill). Flynns (stages 9 and 18) has been modified for better media access. The route for the super special at Gloucester Park (stages 1/ 2, 10/11, 19/20) has been adjusted so that the start line is now on the main straight in front of the grandstands.
This is a unique rally in the FIA World Championship! There are two main special characteristics which concern the tyre suppliers. Firstly, the extraordinary surfaces are covered by small bauxite stones; secondly, the close proximity of trees alongside the edge of the stages. These two factors create a demand for tyre behaviour which creates very precise handling, and handling which is progressive and friendly to drivers.
The stages themselves are in the medium to faster speed range, which accentuates the effect of the characteristics. A Pirelli spokesman explains:
"To get the best performance from the tyres on the stages, we must do what we can to expel the stones from under the treads, in the way we try to expel water to avoid aquaplaning in the wet."
When the conditions in Australia are wet, there is not such a difference in the level of grip as on some other events. The stages on Legs 1 and 2 possess very similar characteristics, while the stages on Leg 3 are expected to be more sandy than the others.
* Total distance: 1334.41km.
* Number of stages: 26.
* Number of different stage venues: 12.
* Maximum number of times same stage roads are used: six (Gloucester Park super special).
* Stage distance: 348.51km.
* Stage surfaces: gravel.
* Longest stage: 29.93km (stages 22/25).
* Highest elevation on stage: 346 metres (on stages13/16).
* Permanent Service Park: Langley Park.
* Shakedown Stage: 2.00km long at Gloucester Park, located 3km from headquarters.
* P3 location: 3.88km long, situated 45km east of Perth, near Mundaring, with a dedicated service area close by.
* No Ceremonial Start, but many promotional activities from 1815 at Gloucester Park.
* Official Start: Thursday, Oct 26 at 1904 from Gloucester Park, with all cars in reverse order.
* Super specials: only the Gloucester Park section, run on three occasions, each time twice.
* Stages in darkness: six (only the Super specials).
* Thursday (2 stages, 4.00km).
* Friday (9 stages, 129.83km) at 0715.
* Saturday (9 stages, 120.36km) at 0730.
* Sunday (6 stages, 103.32km) at 0600.
* Finish at Langley Park from 1430.
* Overnight Parcs Fermes: Langley Park.
* Event Linking for M1 crews: engines, chassis and transmissions must also be used in New Zealand.
KRONOS TOTAL CITROEN WORLD RALLY TEAM (M1)
The cars will appear with new sponsors, but on going to press there was still no news who this will be, or who will be at the wheel of the Number 1 car.
BP-FORD WORLD RALLY TEAM (M1)
It's a complex life! Parts are going in all directions, from Turkey as well as from Britain, to Australia as well as to New Zealand, where the Australia cars will be rebuilt between events. Marcus Gronholm will be going to Surfers Paradise for promotional activities at the Champ Car and V8 race meeting.
SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM (M1)
Great news for local enthusiasts: Chris Atkinson has signed to continue with the team, as team-mate to Petter Solberg. Chris is the only Australian rally driver to have a regular position with a world championship team.
OMV PEUGEOT NORWAY WORLD RALLY TEAM (M2)
So far, no special news. Each driver will run their alternative car here and in New Zealand.
STOBART VK M-SPORT FORD RALLY TEAM (M2)
The team will use 2006 version cars again. Luis Perez Companc will be the team's second driver on this occasion.
RED BULL SKODA TEAM (M2)
The team is not going to Australia or New Zealand.
* Marcus Gronholm scored his fifth win of the season and reduced the lead of the absent Sebastien Loeb to 25 points in the Drivers' series, with BP-Ford taking an eight-point lead over Kronos Total Citroen in the Manufacturers' series. In very mixed conditions and with Mikko Hirvonen finishing second, Ford scored their first 1-2 result since Mexico 2004 and took full advantage of Loeb's misfortune.
* Uncharacteristically, Kronos suffered tyre choice problems and - on the final stage - guest number one driver Colin McRae had electrical failure. On going to press, there was still no news of who will drive the number 1 car in Australia and in which colours the Kronos cars will run.
* The 2006 European Champion, Giandomenico Basso, was the first Super 2000 winner in the World series, despite a first-day suspension failure.
2006 Junior World Championship News
* Per-Gunnar Andersson was on target to clinch the Junior WRC title, but was excluded after the event, following a claim that he had worked on his car illegally, so the winner of the category became fellow Suzuki driver Urmo Aava, and the title remains open until the final round in December. Aava only inherited the lead when Jozef Beres incurred road penalties after the final stage.
2006 Production Car World Championship News
* Of the 16 registered driver, only one - Al Attiyah - will be absent. He is away for quite a special reason: rallying is not his only skill. He is an Olympic-level clay shooting athlete and Rally Australia clashes with the Asian games, where he will represent his country, Qatar.
* Jari-Matti Latvala had earlier opted to miss this event. He originally nominated Argentina as a qualifying round, but was unable to contest that event because of a hand injury suffered in Greece. With the consent of other competitors, he was allowed to substitute his non-start in Argentina with an entry in Australia.
* British PCWRC privateer Nigel Heath has announced that he will be unable to contest this event, for business reasons.
Non Championship Entry News
* There is a remarkable absence of top non-championship drivers on this event. Only one Priority 2 entry has been received (Pons), while the only leading national championship drivers due to start are Dean Herridge and Darren Windus.
* The two top national championship drivers are the new champion Simon Evans and his Toyota team-mate Neal Bates, whose cars - like the official Ford championship entry - cannot run, as they are not internationally homologated. Stranger still, there are no current or previous national rally champions on the entry list at all.
* There is quite a variety among the privateer entries, including one of the biggest teams ever entered in a WRC event. Golden Eggs Team West is a ten-car team from Western Australia. Entries also include a professional trapeze artist (Linzi Malley), a national "Bachelor of the Year" finalist (John Murray Jnr) and a three-car family team!
* To be held on October 28 at the other end of the globe is the Green Swedish Rally. Based at Karlstad, home town of the world championship rally, this eco-friendly event is limited to cars running ethanol fuel. It is a significant rally in motor sport terms, and will be personally attended by FIA President Max Mosley.
* This is sadly the final time the Australian world championship rally will be run out of Perth. It began in 1988 as a round in the Asia Pacific Championship, and the next year was in the World series. The series of events have been noted not only for the high quality of organisation, but for the degree of innovation. Many organisational ideas were first tried out on this event, then integrated into the championship as a whole. Two notable innovations which became international were reverse running order for days two and three, and the figure-of-eight, two-at-a-time Super special course designs.
* For friends who may not expect to be in the area again in the near future, there are two special places which they may care to visit. There is a monument where Rodger Freeth died, 2.72km from the start of stages 22/25. As this lies within a quarantine area, special personal permission must first be granted by the organisers; visitors' cars must then receive antiseptic car wash attention before entering the forest. Access will be limited and can only be granted during reconnaissance (on Wednesday), or before roads close at 0632 on Sunday.
Visitors may also wish to visit the place where Peter Brock died recently during Targa West. This is on a normal public road (which on the day had been closed as a special stage), north of the Mundaring township.
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