The Rally Australia Course
Drivers will take on 318.33km of competitive driving across 21 stages around Coffs Harbour in New South Wales, starting on Thursday. After a stunning performance here last year, Andreas Mikkelsen will be one driver to watch. The Norwegian came to Australia at the end of 2016 knowing that it would be his last outing in the VW Polo WRC and, with no confirmed drive for the 2017 season, went pedal to the metal and took Volkswagen’s last victory in the championship.
Previous WRC Rally Australia Podiums:
|1st||Andreas Mikkelsen||Sebastien Ogier||Sebastien Ogier||Sebastien Ogier|
|2nd||Sebastien Ogier||Jari-Matti Latvala||Jari-Matti Latvala||Thierry Neuville|
|3rd||Thierry Neuville||Kris Meeke||Andreas Mikkelsen||Mikko Hirvonen|
Sebastien Ogier has been undoubtedly the key to M-Sport’s success this year. When the four-time World Champion joined the team after VW’s departure from the competition, he had limited testing in the new car but managed to drive to victory on the first outing in Monte Carlo. A strong season and nine podium finishes meant the M-Sport driver was at the top of the leaderboard for the majority of the season.
Ott Tanak took to the 2017 season with a renewed sense of confidence while driving alongside the reigning World Champion for M-Sport. A strong performance throughout the season saw Tanak take four podium finishes plus two victories, impressing Toyota boss Tommi Makinen enough to sign him for the 2018 season.
Thierry Neuville endured a rocky start to the 2017 season, but managed to come back fighting and take the battle for the championship well and truly to Sebastien Ogier. He even managed to equal the former VW driver’s championship points tally after Rally Finland. Two unfortunate outings in Germany and Spain saw the Belgian’s hopes of winning the championship dashed, while M-Sport rival Ogier managed to further increase his lead. Neuville now heads to Australia in second place, just 14 points ahead of third place Tanak.
All drivers are likely to put in a strong performance on the last event of the season, however the fight in Australia is likely to surround Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and M-Sport’s Ott Tanak. While Neuville is going to aim to maintain second position in the championship, Tanak knows that securing 15 points is technically possible here and could bring the Estonian his best ever championship result.
While it’s easy to look at previous podiums in Australia, you have to remember that this will be the first time the 2017-spec cars have taken to the rugged roads and tracks of Oz. Combine that with three new stages (which will be run twice on Friday) and it makes for an unpredictable season finale where anything could happen.
Sports.net’s Top Tip
Thierry Neuville to maintain his lead over Tanak and secure second place in the Drivers' Championship.