World Rally Championship press release
SS1 and SS2: Citroen aces share laurels
Stage data: SS1 and SS2, Castrol EDGE Super Special Stage 1 (3.77 kilometres)
By M-Sport Stobart Ford team co-driver Dennis Giraudet: “It’s one of these super stages in town to show the rally to the people who don’t want to go into the forest. It’s not the most challenging stage but it’s still tricky and narrow with a gravel part in a car park that was dusty during the recce so can be an issue here. In some places it’s plastic barriers and in some cases concrete barriers lining the course so you have to find the right one.”
How the action unfolded:
Citroen drivers Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier shared the stage honours when Rally Australia got underway with two runs through the rain-hit superspecial in Coffs Harbour this evening (Thursday).
Ogier was 0.7s fastest through the first nighttime run with Loeb going quickest on the second pass 0.1s quicker than Ogier, who leads the rally outright by 0.6s.
It was quite slippery and not easy to find the right rhythm
“It was a good start but the real start is tomorrow,” said Ogier in reference to the all-gravel countryside tests that will form Friday’s route. “It was quite slippery and not easy to find the right rhythm. The car is good so I’m happy.”
Loeb said: “It was okay. I done quite a good stage, which is very specific compared to the rest of the rally. But it was really slippery, particularly on hard gravel tyres.”
Ford’s Jari-Matti Latvala was third fastest on both stages. The factory Ford Fiesta driver trails leader Ogier by 2.8s in the overall classification. Ford team-mate Mikko Hirvonen is fourth overall.
“I was a bit stressed by how [the grip] was going to be,” said Latvala. “In a couple of places it was slippery on the braking but generally better than expected. I will go to bed with a smile.”
Petter Solberg reckoned the set-up of his privateer DS3 WRC was a little too stiff for the damp conditions but reported making no mistakes. He was fifth quickest on both runs.
Matthew Wilson suffered a spin on a left-hand bend during his first run, which inflicted his M-Sport Stobart Fiesta with a damaged front wing. He’s ninth overnight.
Young British driver Harry Hunt impressed with the fastest two-wheel-drive Production championship time on both stages, the first of which he completed 13th fastest. Pole Michal Kosciuszko leads the category outright in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.
Rain before the start had left the mainly asphalt course coated in water, which reduced grip levels and added to the challenge facing the crews. Further rain during the stage resulted in increasingly slippery conditions.
Day one of Rally Australia resumes on Friday morning with the 29.03-kilometre Shipmans stage at 10:03hrs.
Rival Citroen aces share opening stage victories.