Citroen received a boost ahead of the Repco Rally Australia after posting the top two fastest times in the pre-event shakedown.
Surprisingly it wasn't reigning champion Sebastian Loeb who took the fastest time, but his team-mate Dani Sordo.
The four-hour test took place on a 3.29km gravel stage in Dunloe Park, Potsville, 27 kilometres south of the main Service Park in Kingscliff. Weather conditions were dry and bright throughout the session, with a peak temperature of 23 degrees Celsius.
Setting the fastest time of 1min 34.3sec, Sordo made a total of four passes through the stage before declaring himself happy with the set-up of his Citroen C4 WRC.
“The road was fast but nice with very, very good grip, so it was most like Saturday’s stages,” he told wrc.com. “There was a lot of dust on the first pass but when that was swept away the road got faster. We started off checking our set-up for Friday’s twisty stages but then switched to another suspension setting for the faster roads – we also practised making the adjustments ourselves so we can do it between stages.”
Following the recce, Sordo was confident of his chances ahead of Rally Australia, “It looks a very nice rally,” he said. “The first day is slow and twisty, but after that it's fast like New Zealand. I’m looking forward to it.”
Sebastien Loeb set the second fastest time of the session “I found it okay but it’s a very fast road and not very representative of the stages – especially those on the first day,” he said. “We checked that everything was working as it should, and experimented with a few different settings and now the feeling is good.
“Often it will be a compromise, though. The road surface changes a lot; sometimes it’s a hard base with a layer of loose on top, sometimes it's hard with a clean top and other times it’s a softer, sandier base. There are lots of different types of road – sometimes in the same stage,” he added.
Championship leader Mikko Hirvonen was third quickest in his Focus RS WRC. “There’s one corner you can cut by about 10 metres if you like – the time depends on how much you cut that corner,” he said. “My car felt really good, and after today I know we’ll be fine on the faster stages. We made no big alterations, just checked a few different springs, but we’ve ended up going back to the settings we came here with.”
The only driver to have problems during the session was Mathew Wilson, who's Focus developed a misfire on the first pass. Thankfully for the Brit it turned out to be a faulty ignition coil pack which was replaced in time for him to return to the stage for a further three runs.
Here are today's top ten Shakedown times:
1. SORDO. Citroen C4 WRC. 1:34.3 2. LOEB. Citroen C4 WRC. 1:34.8 3. HIRVONEN. Ford Focus RS WRC 09. 1:35.5 =4. LATVALA. Ford Focus RS WRC 09. 1:35.7 =4. VILLAGRA. Ford Focus RS WRC 08. 1:35.7 6. H.SOLBERG. Ford Focus RS WRC 08. 1:35.9 7. OGIER. Citroen C4 WRC. 1:36.3 8. WILSON. Ford Focus RS WRC 08. 1:37.3 9. AL QASSIMI. Ford Focus RS WRC 08. 1:38.6 10. RAUTENBACH. Citroen C4 WRC. 1:40.3