Team Citroen Australia have posted a season best finish at Rally Australia over the weekend, with both teams standing on the podium together for the first time. Marking round 10 of the FIA World Rally Championship, drivers took advantage of the world event, cross entering in the Australian Rally Championship (ARC), and the World Rally Championship (WRC).

Adrian Coppin and Tim Batten finished in second for ARC, and first in their WRC3 category, while Tony Sullens and Julia Barkley, finished third in the ARC and second in WRC3. The endurance event is the largest on the Australian calendar, and also proved to be the most treacherous, with a high rate of attrition among drivers across the event. Both Sullens and Coppin were dealt their share of challenges, narrowly avoiding retirement on several occasions.

The competition opened with the Armor All Power Stage, a short sprint for bonus championship points in the ARC. Times were close between the teammates during qualifying; however Sullens came home strong, taking a season best second place finish, with Coppin left to take third.

Day One of the competitive stages saw drivers head to the forest regions surrounding Coffs Harbour, where the roads are known for their dusty surface which can limit visibility, and be unpredictable at times.  It was a strong opening stage for Sullens and Barkley, but not long before issues emerged for the pair, with their DS3 falling victim to intermittent power that left them at times, stationary during a stage.  

For Coppin and Batten, the opening day took a similar tone, with an overshoot in the morning costing precious time, only to be followed by a rock becoming wedged the brake caliper and suspension, effectively bringing the car to a halt. The pair lost further time on stage trying to free the wheel, to then suffer a broken driveshaft shortly after, limping through the remaining stages in one wheel drive.

Both teams finished the opening day slightly battered and bruised at the hands of the World Rally Championship. Despite the challenges, Sullens finished in third position, whilst Coppin took seventh.

Day Two, and Sullens and Barkley returned to the forest with a new fuel pump and crank sensor, putting an end to their issues of the day before. However, just as they found their competitive pace again, more difficulties came their way. Sullens dropped a wheel off the side of a bridge, bringing his Citroen DS3 to a halt.  The pair struggled to move the car, finally managing to free it after nine minutes of delay. Their predicament was not to end there though, with Sullens’s car losing a rear wheel during the evening’s super special stage, again, seeing a wounded team return to the service park, this time, on only three wheels.

The time lost by Sullens played to the favour of their teammates, looking to make up for the day before. Coppin and Batten came through relatively unscathed, and managed to capitalize on Sullens’s misfortune, climbing up to third position at the end of the day, pushing Sullens in to fourth.

CitroenThe final day saw both teams eager to put the troubles of the first two behind them, and push to the finish. Coppin had a third place to defend, and Sullens was looking to reclaim it. Both drivers gave it their all, with Sullens taking two stages from Coppin, to which Coppin duly answered back. Heading in to the final stage both drivers found themselves in an all-out race to the finish. Unfortunately for Sullens and Barkley, a roll over during the stage handed the upper podium spot to Coppin and Batten. Brushing off the dust, the pair were able to continue, making it home in third for the event.

The World Rally Championship is the most difficult rally series in the world, with Rally Australia proving to be no exception. After a weekend of unprecedented challenges, the victory of finishing, as well as making the podium, was surreal for the drivers, and sweeter than ever.

“I am so excited to drive over the ramp of my WRC home event, and it’s a moment I will cherish for a long time. Somehow, we have managed to be here on the podium both in the ARC and our WRC3 class, where a lot of teams didn’t even get to finish, so it’s a great feeling,” says Coppin.

“I’m absolutely thrilled with our result, and this is a highlight of my career. If you were a betting man you’d say we were an absolute 300-to-1 long shot on Friday. It wasn’t the start we wanted, but the Citroen DS3 is a very very strong car and got us here in the end. Nothing that happened was the fault of the car, it’s just a tough rally by nature,” says Batten.

“Challenges come to mind when I reflect on this event. We were kicked, and we got back up, only to be kicked again, and again. Each time we got back up, all the way to the last stage where we rolled. Rally Australia was always going to be a challenge because we had never done it before and had no experience and local knowledge here.  I was probably over exuberant with my numbering on the corner we rolled. It only takes ones wrong pace note to make a mistake like that,” says Sullens.

“The last stage was awesome up until the point we rolled. It’s a sweeter victory, but I really think it’s a relief we made it to the finish. After everything we have gone through, it's a satisfying feeling,” says Barkley.

Now, attention turns to the final round of the Australian Rally Championship, Rally Victoria. The last event will see the battle for third ignite within Team Citroen Australia, as Coppin and Batten are set for a face-off with Sullens and Barkley, each pair within reach of the final step of the podium.

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