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GP Week : Issue 132
middle class family holiday venue, a relaxed and casual location: “Coffs Harbour has been a vibrant rally centre in earlier years and has only come back into active rally use recently. In the ’nineties it was a regular venue, and it was always a favourite event, because the roads were always very enjoyable for the drivers and because the town, Rally HQ and accommodation were always so close to the stages. It was a great place for rally crews to bring their families. They could chill out by the pool or go to watch the stages only 10 minutes or so away”. WRC entries closed with 31crews, 27 of which are FIA Priority drivers and only seven Australian crews. In addition there is one entry from a New Zealand driver, for Paddon. For this event he drives a locally sourced Subaru instead of the usual Belgium-based Symtech Racing team car. There are to be 13 World Rally Cars and 14 entries in the PCWRC, including two Australian Guest drivers but no Super 2000 or R4 cars. In the absence of the new FIA Pacific Cup champion Chris Atkinson, the top Australian competitor is the Academy driver Brendan Reeves who drives the five year-old Subaru Impreza in which he won the APRC New Caledonia Rally last year. He drives for Anders Grondal’s Bilbuttiken PCWRC team. Two top WRC absentees are Kimi Raikkonen and Mads Ostberg. Ostberg’s place in the Stobart championship team for this event is taken over by Evgeniy Novikov. The local hero has to be 25 year- old Mitsubishi driver Nathan Quinn, who started his international aspirations this year in the APRC. He lives in Coff ’s Harbour itself and is one of the two Guest drivers in the PCWRC category of the event. The other is the little known Leigh Gotch in a Subaru. None of the top current Australian national championship drivers is taking part on the WRC event but they are not far away, on the subsidiary national championship event. Brendan Reeves explains: “ The reason the national Australian drivers are not entered in the WRC event is that their cars run under special rules. so they would have to change their cars to Group N. Also cars have to run Kumho control tyres. The national championship support rally counts as the second last round of the ARC series. The national championship runs on Day 1 and Day 2, not on the Sunday”. National championship cars do not need to fit turbo restrictors, have freedom of gearbox design and although they must use pump rather than competition fuel, they are quicker than Group N cars. In the classic car support event is one special driver, Ross Dunkerton, the double Asia Pacific champion and Australia’s first FIA rally title holder. He is to be honoured on the event for being the winner of the final Southern Cross Rally, the East Coast event based further south at Port Macquarie. The Southern Cross, which ran from 1966 to 1980, became Australia’s first international championship rally in 1978, and used stages in the forests in the area used by Day 2 of Rally Australia. Another item of nostalgia present in Coffs Harbour is to be the 1971 ex-Mark Taylor Ford XY Falcon GTHO ‘Muscle Car’ which daughter Molly, the Pirelli Star Driver, is to demonstrate at the Superspecial. Between the primary event and the classic rally there are just over 100 cars due to take part in Rally Australia in one form or another. ‘ The Ultimate Dust-Up’ is the promotional slogan for the event – let’s hope dust does not play too great a part in the unfolding of the rally! On display and sale at the rally in Coffs Harbour will be copies of the annual Pirelli World Rallying books. Details are available from firstname.lastname@example.org. The Skoda Motorsport works team has decided not to enter the IRC series leader Juho Hanninen in the next qualifying round, the Mecsek Rally in Hungary, in order to favour the championship chances of Jan’s teammate Jan Kopecky. All through the year Hanninen’s primary objective has been the world championship SWRC series, which he is currently 18 points clear of the Ford driver Ott Tanak, with two events to go. In the SWRC he runs for the Austrian based BRR Skoda team. With Kopecky the preferred driver for the IRC, it was ironic that with four more rounds to go Hanninen was also leading that series. After the Czech Barum Rally Zlin, Skoda drivers are lying 1-2-3 in the series, with Hanninen three points ahead of team-mate Kopecky and Freddy Loix, with Peugeot drivers Bouffier and Neuville lying fourth and fifth. The Mecsek Rally is being held this weekend, at the same time as Rally Australia, with just Sanremo, Scotland and Cyprus to follow. The latter two events carry enhanced championship positions. back- burner for hanninen