Hyundai Motorsport has taken a dramatic victory in Rally Italia Sardegna, the seventh round of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), as Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul stole a last gasp win with a sublime performance on the final morning.

The Belgian crew started the day with a 3.9-second deficit to leader M-Sport Ford’s Sébastien Ogier, but a perfect Sunday morning with four stage wins, including the Power Stage, allowed them to steadily catch and pass the Frenchman.

They took a memorable result by a mere 0.7-seconds after 313.46km of competitive Sardinian stages. In one of the closest finishes in WRC history, it actually matches the same minuscule gap by which Neuville beat Elfyn Evans in the 2017 edition of Rally Argentina.

The result is Hyundai Motorsport’s third win of the 2018 season and tenth in its WRC history. It marks the team’s second victory in Rally Italia Sardegna following Neuville’s triumph in 2016, and the fourth Sardinia event in succession where it has finished on the podium.

Sunday celebrations
Four stages were contested on Sunday morning with two runs through the 14.06km Cala Flumini and 6.96km coastal Sassari-Argentiera tests. There was no respite for any of the crews with tense battles throughout the field. While Neuville and Ogier battled it out at the front, Hayden Paddon was able to defend his fourth place from Mads Østberg with a solid Sunday, securing his best result of the season so far.

One-time rally leader Andreas Mikkelsen wrestled two consolatory driver points for finishing fourth in the nerve-wracking and competitive Power Stage.

With this victory, Hyundai Motorsport has extended its grip on the manufacturers’ championship with 212 points, an increased gap of 28 points to M-Sport Ford in second. Neuville’s five additional points for Power Stage success saw him take the maximum available for the weekend and increase his lead in the drivers’ classification to 27 points over Ogier.

Since its WRC debut in 2014, Hyundai Motorsport has now taken ten victories and a total of 40 individual podiums. As the 2018 season passes its halfway mark, the team now heads into the summer break with an opportunity to reflect on a hugely successful season-to-date.

Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

  • Third win of 2018 season with six consecutive stage wins from SS15 to the SS20 Power stage
  • Increases drivers’ championship lead taking maximum 30 points on offer

Neuville said: “I can’t believe it! We knew we had to give it everything we had this morning, and it was a truly fantastic fight with Sébastien. The gap at the end was so small and we left absolutely nothing behind. We kept pushing as hard as we could without doing anything stupid. Battling against Séb is one of the most difficult things to do, so this is a precious victory. Nicolas and I send massive thanks to the whole Hyundai Motorsport team for giving us a great car this weekend. Without them we couldn’t have done this today. Starting first on the road on Friday put us at a disadvantage. The rain helped a bit but we never gave up and we can share in one of the finest wins of our career. Leading both championships heading into the break gives us all the motivation we need for the second half of the season.”

Crew Notes: Paddon/Marshall (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

  • Fourth place represents crew’s best result of 2018 season so far
  • Highest finish in Sardinia since second place in 2015

Paddon said: “A difficult weekend for us, but a positive end to the rally for the team. We wanted more from this rally, but to take fourth place gives us important confidence for the coming events. Things didn’t really click from the first stages, and we weren’t able to replicate the positive feeling we had from shakedown. Still, it’s nice to finish this event for the first time in three years, and to score important points for the team in the manufacturers’ championship. We will look to build from here, and to try and take a few more risks. Congratulations to Thierry, Nicolas and the whole team for a fantastic victory.”

Crew Notes: Mikkelsen/Jæger (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

  • Led rally on Friday morning before transmission trouble
  • Two consolation points for fourth place in the Power Stage

Mikkelsen said: “We gave it all we could in the Power Stage to try and salvage something from what has been a frustrating weekend. Since the last rally, we have found a much better feeling from inside the car but we haven’t had the results to match. On Friday morning, we could show the potential we have with some strong times and leading the rally. Unfortunately, the transmission problem ended our rally and we’ve spent the remaining stages just refining things and picking up useful information about the car on these tough gravel stages. It is all valuable learning but we leave Sardinia with a feeling of missed opportunity. We will regroup over the summer break and be ready for Finland. Finally, congratulations to Thierry and Nicolas on an outstanding win this weekend.”  

Sardinian success story

  • 11 stage wins for Hyundai Motorsport crews in Sardinia
  • Third victory of 2018 and tenth in team’s WRC history

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented: “I am completely delighted, as are all members of the team, with this incredible victory. It was truly a perfect win for Thierry and Nicolas. The battle with Ogier started on Saturday and the intensity of that only increased. I was on the edge of my seat all Sunday morning, and the Power Stage was a superb piece of entertainment for all fans. To take our third win of the season in such exhilarating style is the ideal way to head into the summer break. We have had a faultless operation all weekend, thanks to the hard work of our team on site and in Alzenau. Hayden and Seb have taken their best result of the season in fourth, while Andreas also picked up some points in the Power Stage. It was a memorable battle with Sébastien and M-Sport Ford which will undoubtedly go down in the WRC history books. We came here hoping to defend our lead of both championships but instead we have extended it – the perfect weekend!” 

Next rally

  • The FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) heads into its summer break with the next round, Rally Finland, taking place from 26-29 July
  • Round 8 of the 2018 season will be the last of four consecutive gravel events before moving back onto tarmac

Final Overall Classification – Rally Italia Sardegna

1

T. Neuville

N. Gilsoul

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

3:29:18.7

2

S. Ogier

J. Ingrassia

Ford Fiesta WRC

+0.7

3

E. Lappi

J. Ferm

Toyota Yaris WRC

+1:56.3

4

H. Paddon

S. Marshall

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

+2:55.2

5

M. Østberg

T. Eriksen

Citroën C3 WRC

+3:10.9

6

C. Breen

S. Martin

Citroën C3 WRC

+4:31.7

7

J.M. Latvala

M. Anttila

Toyota Yaris WRC

+11:22.1

8

O. Tänak

M. Järveoja

Toyota Yaris WRC

+12:38.2

9

J. Kopecky

P. Dresler

Škoda Fabia R5

+13:14.6

10

T. Suninen

M. Markkula

Ford Fiesta WRC

+15:30.4

Hyundai's Thierry Neuville won Orlen 74th Rally Poland on Sunday after one of the most remarkable battles in FIA World Rally Championship history. The Belgian claimed his third victory of the season after Ott Tänak crashed out of a slender lead three special stages from the finish.

The Hyundai i20 driver cut Sébastien Ogier’s championship advntage to 11 points with four rounds remaining until the final event at Kennards Hire Rally Australia on the Coffs Coast on 16-19 November.

Tickets for Kennards Hire Rally Australia are available now from Ticketek.com. The four-day Poland rally provided edge-of-the-seat drama throughout in torrential rain, driving winds and thick mud.

The lead changed hands 10 times in 23 stages as title-chasers Neuville and Tänak traded tenths of a second on the WRC’s fastest roads, where average speeds reached as high as 135 kmh. Neuville began Sunday’s final leg in front, but a stunning drive through the opening speed test promoted Tänak ahead. But in the next stage his Estonian rival slammed his Ford Fiesta into a tree.

He limped to the finish but the damage was too great to continue. Neuville eased through the remaining kilometres to head teammate Hayden Paddon pf New Zealand by 1min 23.9sec. Tänak’s heartbreaking retirement lifted teammate Ogier into third place, a further 56.9sec adrift. Dani Sordo in fourth wrapped up a hugely successful weekend for Hyundai Motorsport.

“Ott drove a great rally. In such a fight nobody gives up. I wasn’t ready to give up and was prepared to win,” said Neuville, for whom this was a sixth consecutive podium. “I was sorry for him and congratulate him on the job he did before he crashed. He was amazing again and one guy who was hard to beat.”

Tänak was chasing his second straight win after claiming a maiden victory in Italy last month. It was the third year he has tasted disappointment in Poland after leading in 2015 and 2016 but failing to secure victory.

“It was the only muddy place in the forest. Maybe I didn’t expect it to be that bad. I hit a bank with the rear and it pulled the front into a tree at high speed,” Tänak said. “Was I driving too hard? You need to push hard if you want to win.”

Paddon ended a torrid 12 months since his last podium. The Kiwi could not match the pace of the early starters on Friday’s rain-soaked and sludgy tracks, but an error-free event, combined with several stage wins as conditions improved, brought its reward.

Ogier was blighted by a string of problems in his Fiesta, including sliding into a field on Sunday morning, but the Frenchman persevered to finish 26.6sec clear of Sordo. The Spaniard punctured a tyre but ended 24.4sec clear of Stéphane Lefebvre, who equalled his career-best result and brought hope to his struggling Citroën team. 

A final stage spin cost Teemu Suninen fifth, but the Finn was hugely impressive on his World Rally Car debut with M-Sport.

Mads Østberg and Elfyn Evans were next up, while Citroën draftee Andreas Mikkelsen overhauled Juho Hänninen for tenth in the final stage.

The next round of the WRC is Neste Rally Finland on 27-30 July. Based in the university city of Jyvaskyla, the event known formerly as the Rally of 1000 Lakes is one of the most famous on the calendar, popular for its spectacular high-speed stages along gravel forest roads lined by trees and featuring numerous jumps.

RESULTS, Orlen 74th Rally Poland:

  1. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 2h40m46.1s
  2. Hayden Paddon/Seb Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m23.9s
  3. Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2m20.8s
  4. Dani Sordo/Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2m47.4s
  5. Stephane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau (Citroen C3 WRC) +3m11.8s
  6. Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3m16.8s
  7. Mads Ostberg/Ola Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3m39.6s
  8. Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4m39.1s
  9. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Citroen C3 WRC) +4m43.5s
  10. Juho Hänninen/Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +4m53.7s

Rally Italia (8-11 June) marks the mid-point of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship and takes the crews to the picturesque Mediterranean island of Sardinia. The scenery may be spectacular, but the sun-baked gravel tracks make for gruelling, rough and rocky competition, leaving little room for error.

Originally known as the Rally of the Flowers and dating back to 1928, Italy’s round joined the Championship in 1973 and was traditionally a mixed surface event based in Sanremo, on the mainland, before moving to Sardinia in 2004 and becoming a full gravel rally. Run during Europe’s summer months, temperatures are normally high and the hard base roads covered with a sandy surface disadvantage the early runners on the first passage. However, when the loose has been swept away, rough and rutted conditions can easily catch out the unwary. Michèle Mouton, President of the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, claimed her first WRC victory on Rallye Sanremo in 1981 and remains the first and only female to win a round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

An impressive entry list includes three nominated crews from each of the four registered manufacturers and for the first time this season Andreas Mikkelsen will drive a 2017 specification World Rally Car, the Norwegian joining Citroën Racing for his debut outing in the C3 WRC. The fight in WRC 2 is again sure to be intense and the FIA Junior WRC Championship contenders are back in action for the second round of their series.

Three stages will be broadcast live; Saturday’s Coiluna-Loelle stage (SS13) and both runs through Sassari-Argentiera on Sunday, the second run counting for extra points as the closing Power Stage.

The 2017 Route

The rally is based out of the northwest town of Alghero but after the start and opening super special stage, the crews head to Olbia on the northeast coast for an overnight halt, allowing the organisers to re-introduce the tough Terranova and Monte Olia stages on Saturday. The mid-rally leg is the longest and toughest with 143.16 competitive kilometres run over six stages, while Sunday is identical to last year with two loops of two identical stages, culminating in the all-important Power Stage.

What Was Said…

“The heat and rough roads really define Rally Italia, making it a very tough challenge for the crews as well as the cars,” said Jarmo Mahonen, FIA Rally Director. “In these conditions it’s going to be important to mix car preservation with speed over the rock-strewn stages; the days are also lengthy and the sanctuary of service potentially a long way away for anyone who hits trouble.”

Total distance: 1,495.36 km
Stage distance 312.66 km (20,89 per cent)
Number of stages 19

French driver Sébastien Ogier increased his lead in the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship with his second win of the season at Vodafone Rally de Portugal on Sunday. Steering home his Ford Fiesta 15.6sec ahead of Thierry Neuville in a Hyundai i20 Coupe, Ogier’s 40th career win also matched the 30-year-old record five Portugal wins of Finn Markku Alén.

Neuville’s teammate Dani Sordo finished third in the championship’s sixth round.

The result, concluded in front of huge spectator crowds on the famous Fafe stage near Porto in northern Portugal, boosted Ogier’s lead to 22 points in his chase for a fifth straight drivers’ world championship. Neuville moved from third to second in the standings, displacing Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala.

On the anniversary of his maiden WRC win in Portugal seven years ago, Ogier took the lead of the four-day gravel contest on Saturday morning. He controlled a comfortable advantage through the final leg to add to his season-opening win in Monte-Carlo. The 2017 championship ends on 16-19 November at Kennards Hire Rally Australia on the New South Wales Coffs Coast, where Ogier won in 2013-14-15. Tickets from $39 are on sale now from www.ticketek.com.

“After the struggle we had in the last round, it’s fantastic to be back on the top step of the podium again,” Ogier said at the Portugal finish. “I had a new car in Monte-Carlo and we won. I had a new car here and we won. I’m not sure if the team can afford to give me a new car for every rally!”

Remarkably, Ogier was one of seven drivers to lead during the rally. Belgian Neuville was another. With Mads Østberg, he topped the order in his Hyundai after Thursday night’s opening stage, but slipped away before recovering to second. Neuville, targeting a hat-trick after victories in Corsica and Argentina, changed his driving style to try to regain top spot, but conceded defeat early on Sunday morning.

Teammate Sordo finished a further 46.1sec behind in third. The Spaniard struggled with the handling of his i20 on the dusty gravel roads and could not fend off Ogier and Neuville after lying second earlier in the weekend. Ott Tänak looked to be the man to beat on Saturday. He led before swiping a bank and breaking his Fiesta’s suspension and brakes. He recovered to finish fourth, almost half a minute adrift of Sordo, but had the compensation of winning the rally-closing Power Stage and five bonus points.

Craig Breen was again the leading Citroën C3 driver in fifth, the fourth occasion in six rallies he has occupied that position. He was 27.2sec adrift of Tänak, but well over a minute clear of Elfyn Evans’ Fiesta. The championship reaches its midpoint on 8-11 June at Rally Italia Sardegna, based in Alghero.

RESULTS, Vodafone Rally de Portugal (Rd 6 of 13):

  1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3h42m55.7s
  2. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +15.6s
  3. Dani Sordo/Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m01.7s
  4. Ott Tänak/Martin Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1m30.2s
  5. Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +1m57.4s
  6. Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +3m10.6s
  7. Juho Hänninen/Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3m48.6s
  8. Mads Østberg/Ola Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +5m29.7s
  9. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5m43.6s
  10. Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +8m13.3s

French driver Sébastien Ogier secured his fourth consecutive FIA World Rally Championship title by winning RACC Catalunya-Rally de España on Sunday. He became the fourth driver to claim a quartet of titles after overcoming local hero Dani Sordo to win the only mixed-surface event of the season by 15.6sec in a Volkswagen Polo R. Thierry Neuville of Belgium claimed the final podium place, a further 59.4sec behind.

Ogier's fifth win of the year put the drivers’ title beyond doubt, while co-driver Julien Ingrassia also secured his fourth world championship. But the fight for second and third in the drivers’ series was blown open in Spain and Volkswagen must wait to secure its fourth manufacturers’ championship until Dayinsure Wales Rally Great Britain at the end of this month or Kennards Hire Rally Australia in 30 days’ time on 17-20 November.

For the first time at its New South Wales Coffs Coast base, Rally Australia will close the WRC season. Tickets on sale from www.rallyaustralia.com.au and Ticketek.com include a limited 2-for-1 offer on entry to the new Destination NSW Super Special Stage on the Coffs Harbour waterfront. Spanish ace Sordo led his home event in a Hyundai i20 after Friday’s muddy opening leg in the hills above the Costa Daurada, near Salou. Ogier came into his own when the surface switched to asphalt from Saturday, taking a string of stage wins to move into the lead.

He sealed the win and the championship on the same piece of road on which he crashed out of the lead 12 months ago when just a few kilometres from victory.

“It’s fantastic to take the championship two rallies before the end of the season, I couldn’t do much more,” said Ogier, who secured his third title at Rally Australia last year. “The fourth world championship title for Julien and me, it is impossible to describe how this feels.

“The tension ahead of the closing Power Stage was obviously greater than usual, given the fact that we were within touching distance of the title, and bearing in mind the mistake we made last year. But we’ve done it.”

The 32-year-old former ski instructor and professional boules player joins countryman Sébastien Loeb and Finns Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Mäkinen as an all-time great of the WRC, which has been running since 1977. Rally de Espańa was his 30th win from 50 starts with Volkswagen since 2013.

Sordo’s teammate Neuville moved level with Andreas Mikkelsen in second place in the championship after completing the podium. The Belgian battled cornering problems with his car, but was secure in third after Mikkelsen rolled his Volkswagen heavily on Saturday afternoon. Hayden Paddon completed a strong weekend for Hyundai in fourth, 12.8sec behind Neuville. The Kiwi can also secure second in the standings with the final two rounds in Britain and Australia on his favoured dirt roads.

Results, RACCCatalunya-Rally de España (Rd 11 of 13):

  1. S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:13:03.6
  2. D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +15.6
  3. T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +1:15.0
  4. H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +1:27.8
  5. M. Østberg / O. Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:24.4
  6. O. Tanak / R. Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +5:24.9
  7. K. Abbring / S. Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +7:31.3
  8. J. Kopecky / P. Dresler (Škoda Fabia R5) +9:05.1
  9. P. Tidemand / J. Andersson (Škoda Fabia R5) +9:20.4
  10. C. Breen / S. Martin (Citroën DS3 WRC) +9:57.1

RALLY Australia’s status as a world leader in environmental sustainability in motorsport has been confirmed after it achieved a major award for a second time in the week. The FIA Institute for Sustainability, part of the world motorsport governing body, announced its highest environmental standard, the Achievement of Excellence, had been awarded to Rally Australia following a recent audit.

The organisers of Australia’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) were praised for their post-event report and carbon footprint calculations, which the FIA said reflected their sustainability knowledge.

Now in its 25th year, Rally Australia has hosted the WRC on the New South Wales Coffs Coast since 2011. It will close the 2016 series with Kennards Hire Rally Australia on 17-20 November. In 2013, Rally Australia became the first motorsport event in the world to receive the Achievement of Excellence award for environmental sustainability, which is backed by the FIA’s Action for Environment campaign.

Subsequently, the rally was also confirmed as the first FIA-regulated event to achieve Carbon Neutral Status.

The FIA Institute’s latest announcement also awarded the Achievement of Excellence to WRC Rally Sweden for the first time and confirmed second-level Progress Towards Excellence status for WRC Rally Portugal.

All events in the FIA World Rally Championship will have to achieve accreditation under the FIA Action for Environment campaign and the FIA Institute Sustainability Programme by the end of the 2016. Rally Australia’s new achievement was welcomed by FIA Institute Deputy President and FIA Environmental Delegate Garry Connelly AM.

“I am delighted to recognise the highest award in the Sustainability Programme again to Rally Australia and to the SBF (Swedish Automobile Sport Federation) for the first time,” Connelly said. “I am also very pleased to see that Rally Portugal is now at the level of Progress Towards Excellence.

"That all of these awards have been achieved at a similar time reflects the drive and positive approach many motor sport stakeholders now have towards the environment. We hope this will encourage others to follow their example and join the FIA Action for Environment.”

Rally Australia’s ongoing environmental program, managed by specialist consultant Colin Trinder, undertakes extensive measures to protect and preserve the local Coffs Coast environment. It seeks to ensure the lowest possible impact from the presence of thousands of visitors attending the four-day event.

Event Chairman Ben Rainsford said the second FIA Institute Achievement of Excellence award was an important milestone for the organiser and the host region.

“We’re fortunate to stage Kennards Hire Rally Australia in a region rich with pristine natural attractions and that we have an opportunity to showcase this to the world,” he said.

“The Achievement of Excellence award for a second time is proof our in-house environmental team under Colin Trinder has world-class expertise and is dedicated to protecting this environment. We take every imaginable measure, from flora and fauna audits, to spill prevention, recycling and carbon offset and the Coffs Coast community can be proud of this latest award.”

Drivers representing five countries headline a top-flight entry list for the annual International Rally of Queensland on the Sunshine Coast on 17-19 June. Hosting rounds of the FIA Asia Pacific, Australian and State Rally Championships, Queensland’s only international motorsport event has attracted more than 40 entries to tackle 240 kilometres of challenging forest stages around Imbil, in the Coast’s northern hinterland.

The entry list is headed by India’s MRF Tyres team, winner of five of the past six events and of every APRC driver and manufacturer title since 2012. Their factory-backed Skoda Fabia R5 cars – new this year from the Czech Republic – will be driven by 2010 Queensland winner and 2013 champion Gaurav Gill of India and 24-year-old German Fabian Kreim, the latest in a parade of young European hot-shots assigned Down Under to develop their skills.

Gill leads the championship after winning Round 1 in New Zealand last month. The series also will visit China, Japan and Malaysia before finishing in his homeland in December. Other drivers entered for Queensland this year are from Japan, New Zealand and Australia. Starting his sixth season of international rallying, New Zealand’s Mike Young, 25, showed he will be the defending champions’ strongest rival in the APRC’s second round after claiming several stage wins aboard his Subaru in his home event.

Australia’s challenge will be led by Coffs Harbour-based Nathan Quinn. The Mitsubishi driver has had extensive international experience from China to New Zealand and twice completed the Rally Australia World Championship event. Round 3 of the Kumho Tyres Australian Rally Championship will be equally hard-fought, with the season invigorated by new rules allowing the return of all-wheel drive cars.

The field features Australia’s fastest gravel drivers, including four-time champion Simon Evans (Subaru), junior star Harry Bates (Toyota), Tom Wilde, Molly Taylor and Brad Marcovich (all Subarus), Mark Pedder (Peugeot) and Queenslander Ryan Smart (Mitsubishi). Major attractions among Classic-car entrants will be Neal Bates, in a 1980 Toyota Celica RA40, and Mal Keough in a replica of the infamous Group B Audi Quattro S1 world rally car.

Twenty cars are entered for the MRF Tyres Queensland Rally Championship third round. Pre-event rally headquarters have been moved north from Caloundra to Maroochydore this year, but the weekend competition hub will remain at the Globe Roamer Service Park at Imbil in the Mary Valley, around 50 minutes’ drive into the Coast hinterland.

Two spectator viewing parks will be available throughout the weekend at Derrier Road and Casey’s Gully Road. Tickets are available through the event website, at the service park or at the gate. Spectators, competitors and officials staying in Imbil will be hosted at a free community-run street party on Saturday night. Thousands of fans are expected at the rally’s official Ceremonial Start at Rotary Park, Maroochydore, from 5pm on Friday 17 June. The free family-friendly event will feature a rally car display, driver autographs, prizes, children’s rides, international food and other attractions.

Rally Australia will accelerate preparations to host its 24th FIA World Rally Championship event next November after funding by the Coffs Harbour City Council was approved last night. The Council, which is centred on the Coffs Coast region of New South Wales that hosts the event, voted to support the 2016 and 2017 rallies, reversing a decision taken two weeks ago.

“There are now just over 200 days until Kennards Hire Rally Australia on 17-20 November and with this brief hiatus behind us we’re clear to put the throttle down on planning and organisation for what will be our best event yet,” Rally Australian Chairman Ben Rainsford said. "We’ll do so with the strongest possible demonstration of support from the Coffs Coast community, which spoke out against the original decision and turned out in big number last night to see its will acknowledged.

“A Coffs Coast 2016 rally would have gone ahead whatever the vote, as we have other key supporters including the New South Wales government and commercial sponsors. But almost nothing is more important than this community support and its emergence like never before is the silver lining in this matter. We’ve actually gained from it.”

Rainsford said Rally Australia’s stable financial position and all-round support would assist negotiations begun recently with WRC authorities to host rounds in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Jaguar announced its return to global motorsport. In the autumn of 2016, Jaguar will enter the third season of the exciting FIA Formula E Championship as a manufacturer with its own team. FIA Formula E is the world’s first global single-seater championship for electric powered cars. FIA Formula E offers a unique opportunity for Jaguar Land Rover to further the development of future EV powertrain including motor and battery technology.

Nick Rogers, Group Engineering Director for Jaguar Land Rover, said: “I am proud to announce Jaguar's return to racing with an entry into the innovative FIA Formula E championship. Electric vehicles will absolutely play a role in Jaguar Land Rover's future product portfolio and Formula E will give us a unique opportunity to further our development of electrification technologies. The Championship will enable us to engineer and test our advanced technologies under extreme performance conditions. It is my belief that over the next five years we will see more changes in the automotive world than in the last three decades. The future is about being more connected and more sustainable; electrification and lightweight technologies are becoming more important than ever as urbanisation continues to increase. Formula E has recognised and reacted to these trends and the championship's exciting and pioneering approach is the perfect fit for our brand."

Jaguar Land Rover employs over 8,000 engineers and is the UK's largest investor in research and development across any business sector. Jaguar's Formula E team will be able to draw upon this industry leading resource with Jaguar Land Rover engineers working closely with the race operations team. Those engineers will not only be able to apply their knowledge within the race team environment but crucially use the experience to extract data and push the boundaries of electric technology in a performance environment.

Williams Advanced Engineering will be Technical Partner to the Jaguar Formula E Team and provide extensive motorsport knowledge, combined with high performance EV Systems experience and success. Jaguar Land Rover has a long term relationship with Williams, who partnered with Jaguar on the development of the Jaguar C-X75 plug-in hybrid concept car. The team entry has been granted by Formula E and approved by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).

Alejandro Agag, Chief Executive Officer for Formula E, said: “We are delighted to welcome Jaguar into Formula E. Jaguar is a brand with a rich sporting heritage and the fact that it is returning to global motorsport with Formula E is a huge endorsement of the championship and its ability to influence the development of electric cars. Jaguar brings with it a passionate fan base that will drive the popularity of the championship across the world and once again shows that Formula E is the future of motorsport.”

Jean Todt, President of the FIA said: “The FIA is pleased to welcome Jaguar as a new manufacturer to enter the FIA Formula E Championship. We built this series to offer an alternative competition for manufacturers to step into the sport and develop road-relevant electric technologies. The choice of Jaguar to come back to motor racing with Formula E is a proof of success. As it forges a path forward for the future of the electric car, Formula E managed to attract one of the most prestigious and historical brand across the automotive industry. I wish them success ahead of their arrival in 2016/2017”.

James Barclay, Jaguar Team Director, said: “We looked in detail at alternative ways of returning to motorsport. This was such an important decision for Jaguar and we wanted to get it right. With our future EV plans, Formula E was the obvious choice and we believe that the benefits are enormous. The FIA and the promoter have exciting plans for the future of the championship and we are proud to be one of the first vehicle manufacturers to commit to the series with our own team. We have a lot of work to do ahead of the first race but it is a challenge we relish. We hope that we can welcome a new generation of fans to Jaguar through this exciting programme.”

More details on Jaguar’s return to racing including team presentation, drivers and partners will be released in the run up to season three.

The FIA World Rally Championship contenders head ‘down under’ for the 10th round of the series, Coates Hire Rally Australia, which is based in the coastal resort of Coffs Harbour in New South Wales. Fast and technical gravel stages run in picturesque forests and open countryside lay in wait and, despite some changes to the route, it still remains one of the most compact on the calendar.

After its commanding podium lock-out on the last round in Germany, Volkswagen Motorsport heads to Australia with all three titles within its grasp. In the Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ Championships, it is now guaranteed that only a Volkswagen crew will be crowned the 2015 FIA World Rally Champions, and once again Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are in pole position at the head of the leaderboard. In the Manufacturers’ Championship, the team also has the opportunity to seal its third consecutive title with the Polo R WRC.

The battle in the FIA WRC 2 Championship continues in Australia too. Nasser Al-Attiyah currently leads and will be looking to capitalise on his position, being that only two of his five closest rivals will be contesting the event.

Three stages will be broadcast live on television; SS10, Valla, on Saturday and the two runs through Wedding Bells on Sunday, the second of which counts as the Power Stage.

The 2015 Route

Just one of the nine special stages is identical to last year – Wedding Bells – and four of the other stages have small modifications. Four stages are totally new; three are run on Friday – Utungan, Bakers Creek and Northbank – while the 6.4 kilometre Settles Road stage on Sunday is also new but uses part of the 2013 shakedown stage, run in reverse. Saturday not only features two runs through the 50.80 kilometre Nambucca stage, but also a night test, which is a first for Rally Australia.

Rally Data

Total distance:
Stage distance:
Number of stages:

1,023.70 km
311.36 km (30.42%)
17