After the asphalt roads of Germany, the World Rally Championship switches to gravel for round 10, Coates Hire Rally Australia, which kicks off on 11 September.
Based in the sub-tropical setting of Coffs Harbour, halfway between Sydney and Brisbane on the New South Wales coast, the varied character of the event’s stages poses a complex challenge, and includes everything from tight and twisty roads deep in the rainforest, to fast and flowing roads in open countryside.
This year’s rally is the third to be based on the Coffs Coast and its 948.10km route uses most of the stages from 2013, with some minor tweaks. It also retains a famously compact route – with all of the 20 stages within a radius of 55km of the rally base.
New for this year is a larger Service Park, at the C-Ex Sports Stadium complex in Coffs Harbour, and a new mixed asphalt and gravel Super Special that will be run in darkness at the end of Friday and Saturday’s action.
The event will commence on Thursday 1 September with Shakedown, followed by a rally show and ceremonial start in central Coffs Harbour. Three days of competition follow over Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Friday’s action is based south of Coffs, in the Tuckers Nob and Newry State Forests. Stages vary from high-speed shire roads to tight and technical forest tracks. A loop of three tests is tackled in the morning, starting with the new 10.73km Hydes Creek. All three are repeated in the afternoon before the first visit to the Super Special.
On Saturday crews will head further south to a selection of hard-based shire roads west of Nambucca Heads. Up first is the monster Nambucca stage which, at 48.92kms, is one of the longest of the season. That and the 8.96km Valla stage are repeated in the afternoon before the second visit to the Super Special.
On Sunday the action moves north of Coffs to three slightly modified stages from 2013: Shipmans (30.20km), Bucca (10.86km) and Wedding Bells (9.23km). Each is repeated in the afternoon, with the second pass of Wedding Bells counting as the Power Stage.