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Repco Rally Australia 2009 Preview

Australia hosts Round 10 of the World Rally Championship, and could well change the destiny of the title, with Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastien Loeb still very close in the championship race.

Rally Australia heads east to New South Wales for the first time, after spending many years in Western Australia. This also means a change it the characteristics in the new stages, with a mixture of fast flowing roads and narrow twisty sections akin to New Zealand. This shift may well favour championship leader Mikko Hirvonen who prefers faster, more open stages. Hirvonen’s take on the new route:

“I don’t think the roads here are quite so demanding as the previous ones, but the mixture of twisty stuff and flat out roads is something new,” said Hirvonen. “I think we’ll be able to get used to the high speed stages straight away, but Friday has a lot of short technical stages too and on those you have to be patient. The variety of stages means it's going to be tough to get into a steady driving rhythm.”

“The roads have a very hard base with a bit of loose gravel on top, which could make it hard for me being first on the road on Friday, but it's not like the ball bearing gravel we had in Perth,” he said.

But Sebastien Loeb will be seeking a much needed change in fortune, after scoring only half the amount of points Hirvonen has in the last 3 rounds alone.

“Our goal is to win, or at least finish ahead of Mikko,” said Loeb. “As the situation stands at the moment, the way the championship finishes is in my hands. If I win the last three rallies, I will be the World Champion. My mission will become somewhat more complex, however, if Mikko beats me just once.”

Road position could also favour Latvala, as long as his somewhat erratic form does not take a turn for the worse.

Australia will also be a must-win for Hirvonen, as the penultimate round is in Catalunya, where Loeb will likely be favourite to take all 10 points. The bigger risk there however is from Citroen number 2 Dani Sordo snatching second place, like at season opener Rally Ireland, and stretching Loeb’s gain to 4 points.

The pressure will also be on Latvala to back up a Hirvonen victory with a 1-2 to bridge the gap to Citroen in the Manufacturers Championship, a gap which currently stands at 14 points.

The all-new stages could create some surprises, and also put more emphasis than usual on co-drivers. There are no old notes to rely on, so the recce is even more cruical to get right than normal. This could well go in favour of Loeb, whos co-driver Daniel Elena is widely regarded as one of the best in the world.

Elsewhere, Australia also marks the penultimate round on the Production World Rally Championship. Three drivers still have a mathematical chance of title glory; Armindo Araujo (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX), Nasser Al-Attiyah (Subaru Impreza WRX STi) and Patrik Sandell. However Araujo only needs to finish 7th to beat Sandell, and 4th to take the title ahead of Al-Attiyah. Sandell’s only real hope of clinching the title is a DNF by Araujo and a 3rd or less by Al-Attiyah. Sandell’s task is made harder by not even contesting this round, instead finishing off his season at Rally GB instead of Australia like Araujo and Al-Attiyah.

Even if Araujo wins the Group N class, he still may not be crowned champion. His six point lead only came about after Al-Attiyah was excluded from Rally Greece for a technical infringement concerning a supposedly modified crankshaft. His Barwa Rally Team has appealed this decision, and a hearing at the FIA Inernational Court of Appeal will commence soon.

The need for precise notes at a brand new rally could also boost Eyvind Brynildsen’s chances of crashing the PWRC party for Araujo and Co, whos co-driver Denis Giraudet has a massive 28 years experience in the WRC to rely on. He has also co-driven for previous champions Juha┬áKankkunen and Dideir Auriol. His Mitsubishi Evo IX is also one of the best cars in the field, so expect a serious threat to come from the young Norweigan. Recently crowned JWRC champion Martin Prokop is also present in the PWRC, driving a similar car to Araujo and Brynildsen.

ENTRY LIST

No Driver/Codriver Team Car Group Class Priority FIA
1 Sebastien LOEB (F)

Daniel ELENA (MC)

Citroen Total WRT Citroen C4 A8 1
2 Dani SORDO (E)

Marc MARTI (E)

Citroen Total WRT Citroen C4 A8 1
3 Mikko HIRVONEN (FIN)

Jarmo LEHTINEN (FIN)

BP Ford Abu Dhabi WorldRally Team Ford Focus RS WRC 09 A8 1
4 Jari-Matti LATVALA (FIN)

Miikka ANTTILA (FIN)

BP Ford Abu Dhabi WorldRally Team Ford Focus RS WRC 09 A8 1
5 Matthew WILSON (GB)

Scott MARTIN (GB)

Stobart VK M-Sport FordRally Team Ford Focus RS WRC 08 A8 1
6 Henning SOLBERG (N)

Cato MENKERUD (N)

Stobart VK M-Sport FordRally Team Ford Focus RS WRC 08 A8 1
8 Conrad RAUTENBACH (ZW)

Daniel BARRITT (GB)

Citroen Junior Team Citroen C4 A8 1
9 Federico VILLAGRA (RA)

Jorge PEREZ COMPANC (RA)

Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team Ford Focus RS WRC 08 A8 1
12 Sebastien OGIER (F)

Julien INGRASSIA (F)

Citroen Junior Team Citroen C4 A8 1
15 Khalid AL QASSIMI (UAE)

Michael ORR (GB)

BP Ford Abu Dhabi WorldRally Team Ford Focus RS WRC 08 A8 2
31 Martin PROKOP (CZ)

Jan TOMANEK (CZ)

Martin Prokop Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX N4 3
32 Bernardo SOUSA (P)

Jorge CARVALHO (P)

Bernardo Sousa FIAT Abarth Grande Punto S2000 N4 3
33 Toshi ARAI (J)

Glenn MACNEALL (AUS)

Subaru Team Arai Subaru Impreza WRX STI N4 3
34 Gianluca LINARI (I)

Massimo SALVUCCI (I)

Gianluca Linari Subaru Impreza WRX STI N4 3
39 Armindo ARAUJO (P)

Miguel RAMALHO (P)

Errani Team Group srl Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX N4 3
43 Mark TAPPER (NZ)

Jeff JUDD (NZ)

Tapper Rallysport New Zealand Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX N4 3
45 Stewart TAYLOR (NZ)

Warwick SEARLE (NZ)

Uspenskiy Rally Tecnica Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX N4 3
48 Chaodong LIU (CN)

Anthony MCLOUGHLIN (AUS)

TSI Racing Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX N4 3
49 Eyvind BRYNILDSEN (N)

Denis GIRAUDET (F)

Ralliart New Zealand Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX N4 3
50 Richard MASON (NZ)

Sara MASON (NZ)

Barwa Rally Team Subaru Impreza WRX STI N4 3
54 Steven SHEPHEARD (AUS)

John MCCARTHY (AUS)

Steven Shepheard Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X N4 3
55 Nathan QUINN (AUS)

David GREEN (AUS)

Nathan Quinn Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX N4 3
59 Cody CROCKER (AUS)

Ben ATKINSON (AUS)

Serge Motorsport Subaru Impreza WRX STI N4 3
60 Neal BATES (AUS)

Coral TAYLOR (AUS)

Neal Bates Toyota Corolla S2000 * N4 3
61 Glen RAYMOND (AUS)

Matt RAYMOND (AUS)

Glen Raymond Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX N4
62 Hayden PADDON (NZ)

John KENNARD (NZ)

Team Green NZ Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX N4
63 Eli EVANS (AUS)

Glen WESTON (AUS)

Eli Evans Subaru Impreza WRX STI N4
65 Glenn BRINKMAN (AUS)

Harvey SMITH (AUS)

John Stilling Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX N4
66 Stewart REID (GB)

Mark STACEY (AUS)

Neal Bates Toyota Corolla S2000 * N4
67 Brett KIPLING (AUS)

Bernie WEBB (AUS)

Brett Kipling Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX N4
68 Matthew SELLEY (AUS)

Claire RYAN (AUS)

Matthew Selley Subaru Impreza WRX STI A8
69 Han HAN (CN)

Qiang SUN (CN)

Reece Jones Rallysport Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX N4
70 Charlie DRAKE (IRE)

Eoin MOYNIHAN (IRE)

Charlie Drake Subaru Impreza WRX N4
71 Marius SWART (AUS)

Gerard MCCONKEY (AUS)

Marius Swart Volkswagen Polo Super 2000 N4
72 Stephen TONNA (AUS)

Lorelle TONNA (AUS)

Stephen Tonna Mitsubishi Lancer EVO V N4
73 Michael KAHLFUSS (GER)

Ronald BAUER (GER)

Michael Kahlfuss Mitsubishi Lancer EVOVIII N4
74 Ben CULLEN (AUS)

Mathew CULLEN (AUS)

Ben Cullen Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VI N4
75 Trevor TAYLOR (NZ)

Jason TIMMINS (NZ)

Taylor Motorsport Ltd Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X N4
76 Richard HOUGHTON (AUS)

Andrew HOUGHTON (AUS)

Richard Houghton Subaru Impreza WRX STI N4
78 John GOASDOUE (AUS)

Scott BECKWITH (AUS)

John Goasdoue Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VI N4
79 Mark BUTCHER (AUS)

James HEINRICH (AUS)

Mark Butcher Subaru Impreza WRX A8