Mainly contested in Europe, the FIA World Rally Championship nonetheless travels overseas on three occasions. Following trips earlier in the year to Mexico and Argentina, the third exotic destination takes the teams to the east coast of Australia. Roughly midway between Sydney and Brisbane, the small coastal town of Coffs Harbour has hosted the event since 2011. It is time for the final, 13th round of the 2017 championship – Kennards Hire Rally Australia.
This gravel rally has its own specific characteristics, with a mix of wide, shire roads through the fields and tight, twisty tracks in the rainforest. The hard ground is often covered with tiny round stones, which can be especially slippery for the drivers who are first the road! Once it is swept clear, the hard ground provides a high level of grip… unless it decides to rain.
Families attending the rally will be able to enjoy a close-up view of the action, since the first and second legs conclude with two passes on a super special stage, held right next to the service park. The Raceway super special stage (Saturday morning) and the Wedding Bells Power Stage (Sunday) are equally very popular with the Australian fans.
— WRC (@OfficialWRC) November 14, 2017
The 21-stage Kennards Hire Rally Australia event, round 13 of the year, covers a total stage distance of 318.33km
The rally gets underway on Friday morning with some new stages into the Australian forest. Concluding with two runs through the familiar Destination NSW super special, it acts as a suitably demanding prelude to the longest day of the event.
Covering 140km on Saturday, crews will tackle the monster Nambucca test, which at 48.89km is the third longest stage of the season after El Chocolate in Mexico (54.90km) and Antisanti-Poggio di Nazza in Corsica (53.78km).
The final day of action for the 2017 WRC takes place on Sunday with well-known Australian stages, Bucca and Wedding Bells.
- This year’s Rally Australia not only marks the conclusion of the 2017 world championship season, it’s also the 25th WRC event to take place in the country.
- Based in Coffs Harbour in New South Wales, the rally’s home since 2011, organisers have made several changes to this year’s route. It is more compact than ever before with the focus taken away from open countryside roads and placed on forest-based tests, which increases the prospect of hanging dust.
- Friday’s action takes in three repeated stages north of Coffs Harbour with Sherwood the most northerly, albeit only 40 kilometres away. Using fast and open roads with some technical sections, the stages have received the approval of Chris Atkinson.
- The opening leg concludes with two runs through the Coffs Harbour superspecial, which offers “jumps at speed against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean”, according to rally officials.
- The rally heads south on day two. There is the fearsome 48.89 kilometres of Nambucca, set to provide a rude awakening at 07h18 local time. New stages Welshs Creek, a 33.49km monster, and Argents Hill also feature on the itinerary, as do twin visits to the 20.87km Newry test plus two more runs of the Coffs Harbour superspecial. With a competitive distance of 140.27km, leg two is the longest of the rally by far.
- Sunday’s closing leg is centred north of Coffs Harbour and concludes with the Wedding Bells Power Stage. Its 6.44 kilometres will provide a stern test, but perhaps not as arduous as the 31.90km Bucca stage, run once early on Sunday morning.
Rally Australia first featured on the WRC calendar in 1989
- It was run every year until 2006 out of the western city of Perth. After years in the wilderness, it found its current home on the east coast in Coffs Harbour, a coastal town located a one-hour flight north of Sydney, where it’s becoming established as a popular setting for the championship finale.
|2016||Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger||Volkswagen Polo R WRC|
|2015||Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia||Volkswagen Polo R WRC|
|2014||Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia||Volkswagen Polo R WRC|
|2013||Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia||Volkswagen Polo R WRC|
|2011||Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen||Ford Fiesta RS WRC|
Kennards Hire Rally Australia Schedule (GMT+11)
Thursday 16 November
8.00am: Shakedown (5.02km)
Friday 17 November
7.30am: Start (Coffs Harbour)
8.13am: SS1 – Pilbara I (9.71km)
8.36am: SS2 – Eastbank I (19.05km)
9.39am: SS3 – Sherwood I (26.68km)
11.24am: Service A (Coffs Harbour – 30 mins)
12.37pm: SS4 – Pilbara II (9.71km)
1.00pm: SS5 – Eastbank II (19.05km)
2.03pm: SS6 – Sherwood II (26.68km)
4.54pm: SS7 – Destination NSW SSS I (1.27km)
5.02pm: SS8 – Destination NSW SSS II (1.27km)
5.22pm: Flexi Service B (Coffs Harbour – 45 mins)
Saturday 18 November
6.00am: Service C (Coffs Harbour – 15 mins)
7.18am: SS9 – Nambucca17 (48.89km)
8.56am: SS10 – Newry17 I (20.87km)
9.44am: SS11 – Raceway SSS (1.37km)
10.49am: Service D (Coffs Harbour – 30 mins)
12.22pm: SS12 – Welshs Creek (33.49km)
1.08pm: SS13 – Argents Hill (12.24km)
2.16pm: SS14 – Newry17 II (20.87km)
4.54pm: SS15 – Destination NSW SSS III (1.27km)
5.02pm: SS16 – Destination NSW SSS IIII (1.27km)
7.32pm: Flexi Service E (Coffs Harbour – 45 mins)
Sunday 19 November
6.40am: Service F (Coffs Harbour – 15 mins)
7.38am: SS17 – Pilbara Reverse I (9.93km)
7.56am: SS18 – Bucca16 (31.90km)
9.08am: SS19 – Wedding Bells16 (6.44km)
10.33am: Service G (Coffs Harbour – 30 mins)
11.46am: SS20 – Pilbara Reverse II (9.93km)
1.13pm: SS21 – Wedding Bells16 II Power Stage (6.44km)
2.16pm: Service H (Coffs Harbour – 10 mins)
3.30pm: Podium (city centre)