Neuville has delivered an important entree as he attempts to seal second in the World Rally Championship behind M-Sport’s Sebastien Ogier who bagged his fifth straight title at the previous event in Wales.
Belgian’s Neuville carved out a best run through the 5km stage north of Coffs Harbour in 2min56.3s.
He had lost plenty of time stranded in the service park while the Hyundai team tried to solve an oil leak in the engine of the i20.
Wales champion Elfyn Evans set the second fastest run in 2:56.8s with Citroen’s Stephane Lefebvre recording an identical time.
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Jari-Matti Latvala was next quickest in 2:57.1 with Kris Meeke (Citroen) clocking 2:57.2.
Teams trekked back into service park at regular intervals throughout shakedown, making set-up changes on the more powerful and technically different 2017-spec WRC machines.
Latvala said the visits from the shakedown stage to the service park had resulted in incremental improvements.
“It’s getting better and better all the time and I’m quite happy with the car,” Latvala said.
“We changed the springs in the service. The car is much faster compared to last year but I’m also more comfortable in the car.”
Evans said the session was positive with evaluations on changes to the Ford Fiesta giving the team a solid base into into the weekend.
“Everything is working okay. We’ve been changing a few things to try and help it,” Evans said.
“It’s always a balance but we are finding out some information that hopefully we can put to good use in the rally.”
M-Sport’s Ott Tanak remains committed to trying to overhaul Neuville who goes into 21 special stages with a 14-point advantage over the Estonian. Tanak was equal sixth with Rally Australia debutant Craig Breen.
Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon said he went into shakedown with the set-up unchanged from Wales which was gradually tweaked as the session played out.
“We are trying a few things in the car and trying to get a bit of a feel,” Kiwi Paddon said.
“It’s quite different to Wales. We essentially came with the same set-up so we are trying to adjust and find a few things.
“(with) Shakedown you can never draw too many conclusions. Time tomorrow is what counts.”