This week’s Rally Australia is effectively a new event for everybody in the World Rally Championship. Frenchman Sébastien Loeb is the best man to take us through what’s needed to win.
With no competitive experience of the roads, the drivers are forced to take a slightly different and more conservative approach to what’s certain to be an absolute thriller through the middle of New South Wales.
Citroën driver Loeb may never have driven in anger on the roads around Coffs Harbour, but he has won in this country before – in 2004, when the event was based out of Perth, just 4,000 short kilometres to the west.
Nobody knows winning in world rally like Loeb – he’s done it 66 times already. Here are his thoughts on how to turn the WRC’s newest streets into number 67.
'It’s always a bit special when you discover a rally for the first time'
Before I came to this rally, I knew nothing about the event – apart from the fact that it’s in Australia! Actually, I had heard that the roads were going to be quite fast, but nothing apart from that. I thought about this rally the same as every other event, but there is a different approach to a rally coming for the first time.
It’s in the notes
It’s always a bit special when you discover a rally for the first time. You have to take even more care and concentrate even more on the recce. You have to make sure you have taken very good and very precise pacenotes. With only two passes on the recce, we really won’t know the road very well. It’s a bit more tricky than a normal event when you come for the first time.
Straight down the middle
After the recce, we can see that in some of the stages, the trees are really close to the side of the road. It was like this when we were in Perth: there’s no room at the side of the road, you go straight into the trees. This doesn’t affect the way you make your pace notes or anything like that, you just have to make a decision on how hard you push or how fast you have to go when you get to these corners. My pace notes are made on the angle of the corners rather than the speed to go through them.
'We will find our rhythm on the rally and take it from there'
What about the weather?
Some rain would definitely help us. We are running first on the road here in Australia, and especially on leg two there’s a lot of loose gravel around on the surface. If it stays dry, it’s not easy to drive first down these roads, you are sweeping the stones away for the rest of the field – so some rain would be nice.
Making it up as you go along
We always make a plan to go as fast as we can and to try and be in the position to win the rally, but you always have to think about your approach during the event as well. We will find our rhythm on the rally and take it from there. We hope that rhythm’s fast enough for us to win.