Rally Australia: Hyundai preview

Hyundai sets sights on points in Australia. Hyundai Castrol World Rally Team crews Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer, Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets and Juha Kankkunen/Juha Repo head to Perth next week for the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally ...

Hyundai sets sights on points in Australia.

Hyundai Castrol World Rally Team crews Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer, Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets and Juha Kankkunen/Juha Repo head to Perth next week for the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Australia.

After a fantastic result on the previous round in New Zealand, the Hyundai Castrol World Rally Team take an optimistic frame of mind to Australia where it has produced good results in previous years, most notably a fourth-placed finish in 2000 which is the team^Òs best finish to date.

Rally Australia is considered one of the favourites among many competitors and although the springtime sunshine and the Australian countryside may contribute, it is one of the best organised events in the Championship.

Four-time World Champion Juha Kankkunen has won the event four times and had a podium finish on a further four occasions, so his experience of the rally speaks for itself. ^ÓI love going to Australia ^Ö I like the country and the rally itself. I^Òve won it a few times before so I know we can have a good run there. The car felt fantastic in New Zealand and the improvements that have been made are a good step in the right direction. Coupled with good reliability we demonstrated it can take the pace for the duration and I am confident we should have at least one car in the points, if not two,^Ô said a positive Kankkunen.

Juha^Òs closest rival in New Zealand was team-mate Freddy Loix and co-driver Sven Smeets who also took points for Hyundai there. Freddy has contested Rally Australia five times before and with three top ten finishes including a fourth place in 1999, the Belgian also has experience of the slippery Australian country roads.

^ÓI like this rally ^Ö it has good organisation and I love driving the roads. They can be quite slippery but I like that. It means you have to be very precise with a smooth driving style and not too aggressive, which is a bit like my driving style anyway,^Ô said 31-year-old Loix.

The roads around Perth are well known to have a lot of loose surface gravel comprised of round ball bearing-sized stones. This makes the roads incredibly slippery and it means that the first few cars running on the road act as sweepers, cleaning the roads for the cars behind and in most cases will lose those frontrunners valuable seconds. A victim of road-sweeping last year, it is clearly an issue Freddy needs to consider.

^ÓWe have a good road position on the first day and if we can have a trouble-free run then we should be able to keep a good position for the following two days. Unfortunately that will be the main key to a good result in Australia,^Ô said Loix. ^ÓBut you also need to be very accurate and make no mistakes. The trees are so close to the road that you can^Òt go very wide. You have to drive more accurately than in Finland (which is also a fast rally with lots of trees near the road) as you can^Òt really cut the corners and you have to stay in the clean tracks on the road otherwise you lose time or you make friends with a tree at the side of the road which is obviously what you don^Òt want to do!^Ô

Team-mate Armin Schwarz has only contested Rally Australia twice before so, similarly to New Zealand, he will making brand new pace notes for the rally with co-driver Manfred Hiemer. ^ÓI like Australia and the rally is outstanding. I know all the drivers complain about the superspecial stages for the spectators but you really do get a great city atmosphere there which is fantastic. ^ÓThe special stages are totally different to all the other events with marbles on the surface but otherwise the rally has the feel of a European event on the other side of the world,^Ô explained Schwarz.

^ÓBut it was seven years ago that I last went to Australia and that is a long break from the rally so I have to approach it like a new event and make brand new pace notes again, like we did for New Zealand. But the car was great there and we set some good times in New Zealand before we got placed first on the road so I know we can set good times in Australia as well. I^Òm just hoping that we go well on leg one so we don^Òt have to sweep the roads again there like we had to in New Zealand.^Ô

Key Issues

According to Juha Repo, co-driver to Juha Kankkunen, ^ÓThe hardest thing about Australia is the ball bearing gravel which is so slippery that it makes your road position very important. You really don^Òt want to be first on the road as you lose a lot of time cleaning the surface to get down the harder base below to actually get some grip, and the more loose gravel there is on the road, the more time you lose. You know that the first 6 cars or so will find it a bit difficult and need to clean and create the rut for other cars to use to their advantage.

^ÓFinland is well known for its speed and the trees that line the road and Australia can be as bad or worse from that point of view. The Jarra and Eucalyptus trees are very close to the road, which means you have to be very accurate and not go wide as even the smallest mistake has a high price.

^ÓEach of the three legs is slightly different. The stages on leg one are in a pine forest and leg two is very fast with a lot of trees and tree stumps lining the side of the road. Leg three is also in a pine plantation with lots of man-made jumps and the fact that they are man-made means they are quite steep jumps.^Ô

The Rally

After the opening spectator-friendly superspecial stage in Langley Park in the heart of Perth city on the evening of Thursday 31 October, leg one proper gets underway on Friday 1 November taking crews due south of the Perth Rally HQ base for 135.68 kilometres of competition over nine special stages, with a second run of the Langley Park superspecial to conclude. Leg two heads due east and covers 147.27 competitive kilometres in the forests south of Mundaring and leg three heads to the Sotico pine plantations south east of the city for the final four stages before reaching the podium finish at 16:00. Perth is GMT +8 hours.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Freddy Loix , Armin Schwarz , Juha Kankkunen , Juha Repo , Sven Smeets