BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Jari-Matti Latvala has said that this weeks Repco Rally Australia could be one of the most arduous and most challenging events in this year's World Rally Championship.
Latvala took a confidence boosting third place finish in Finland, the last event in the WRC, and he will want to build on that 'down under'. However the new-look Rally Australia definitely won't be one for the faint hearted and it includes a staggering 35 stages in total, easily more than any other rally this season.
It will be based around the Tweed and Kyogle Shires in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales and with drivers' having to spend more than 14 hours behind the wheel during the first leg, over 15 hours on the second day and more than 11 hours on the usually short final leg, he knows it will be a real test of endurance.
"They are long days and it will be important to adapt quickly to the time difference after the flight there and sleep a lot to be ready for this rally," Latvala explained. "Maintaining concentration will be harder than usual.
"In most rallies the stages are held in groups of three, but it's different here. The opening section on the first leg includes seven tests so it will be important to remain focused during the long liaison sections. Shorter stages usually mean the competition is close because it's more difficult to open big time gaps on short tests than it is on longer sections."
Latvala has a definite goal in mind for the tenth round in the WRC and his chief priority is to do all he can to help his team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen, in his fight against Citroen's Sebastien Loeb for the 2009 drivers' title.
"The drivers' championship is looking set for an exciting finish and my job in Australia will be to score solid points to help Mikko maintain his challenge for the title," confirmed the 24-year-old.
Khalid Al Qassimi meanwhile will be in action in a third BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT-run Focus RS WRC and he wants to maintain the form that has seen him claim points on four occasions from six outings this year.
"I am very much looking forward to the Australian east coast rally experience. The stages will be new to everyone, so we are all in the same position to give it our best shot and get the most out of the challenge," Al Qassimi added.
"I have great confidence in my car and the team, so I just need to prove that I can perform on the unknown stages."