The FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) reaches its conclusion between the 17th and 20th November at the final round of the 2016 season, the Rally Australia. For the 4th successive year, this event will take place in and around Coffs Harbour, which is located almost exactly halfway between Sydney and Brisbane, on the country’s east coast. It is always an exciting event taking place on a combination of public shire roads and private tracks.
The 2016 Rally Australia is two months later than last year’s and the cooler conditions could affect how teams are setting up their vehicles as well as the conditions on the gravel roads. The event comprises of 315km of competitive distance spread over three legs and twenty-three special stages.
The opening leg will see drivers head south and consists of four classical special stages which most drivers will be familiar with, with each being driven twice. There will also be three short super special stages including two at the end of the leg which will take place around the jetty in Coffs Harbour itself. This has not been run since 2011, so will only be known to the more experienced drivers.
The highlight of the second leg is undoubtedly the Nambucca stage, which will also be driven twice. At 50.8km long, it is by some distance the longest stage of this rally and also one of the longest of the entire WRC season. The second leg ends with the same Super Special stage in Coffs Harbour, before drivers head north for a shorter third leg of just 5 stages.
Throughout the rally, there will be similar challenges for drivers to overcome. Shire roads in this region often have trees close to the road, leaving drivers with very little margin for error. There is also a mix of open straight routes and areas with tight corners making the role of the co-driver and the accuracy of the pace notes particularly important.
Other areas of the rally will see drivers traversing routes through thick rainforest. This has plenty of obvious hazards, but for stages taking place in early morning or late evening, visibility can be a big problem as the low sun can blind drivers and also cause a strobing effect through the trees.
All vehicles will be running a gravel suspension and most cars will run hard compound tyres, although they will keep the option of a soft set available in case the rain should fall.
The event will see plenty of attention on the WRC2 championship, with ŠKODA Motorsport pairing of Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm still in with a chance of securing the title. They need to finish first or second in the WRC2 standings if they are to pip fellow Finns and FABIA R5 drivers Temmu Suninen / Mikko Markkula (not competing here) to the title.
It promises to be a fascinating conclusion to the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship, and you will be able to follow the performance of all entered ŠKODA FABIA R5 cars right here on the ŠKODA Motorsport website.