Entries for the 21st Rally Australia opened today, marking another milestone in the countdown to Australia's round of the 2011 World Rally Championship on the New South Wales Coffs Coast.
Organisers expect up to 100 cars will contest the WRC tenth round - or one of two companion events, the Coffs Coast Forest Rally for the Bosch Australian Rally Championship and the Coffs Coast Classic Rally.
“We're now winding up for the most prestigious global motorsport series after F1 to arrive on the Coffs Coast in just over eight weeks' time. The opening of entries is an important milestone in our preparation schedule,” the event's sporting chief, Clerk of Course Dr Michelle Gatton, said.
“Entries close in a month, so we'll soon know what the competitor field will look like.
“In fact, we know already that World Champion Sebastien Loeb, Sebastien Ogier, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, representing the top WRC manufacturer teams from Citroen and Ford, will be coming because they are committed to the full 13-round WRC.
“Add in some high profile privateers and a strong field of Australian drivers, some of whom are certainly world-class and I promise spectators will experience a weekend of unforgettable motorsport.”
Dr Gatton meanwhile repeated a call to Australian competitors to enter the WRC round and challenge the world's best.
“There are great reasons for Aussies to step up to the WRC. They will be able to measure their abilities against the international benchmark, achieve a high-point in their driving careers and do so while earning bonus points in the Bosch Australian Rally Championship and a significant discount on the entry fee,” she added.
The three-day event runs from September 8-11 and will see competitors tackle 28 Special Stages in total over 368 competitive kilometres.
“The roads selected vary widely in character and surface, from fast-flowing gravelled shire roads to narrower forestry tracks many would remember from years gone by,” Dr Gatton continued. “The Coffs Coast region has had unusually high rainfall this year and in general I am extremely pleased by the condition of the roads following these adverse conditions.
“Crews will contest six gravel stages to the west of Coffs Harbour on Friday, eight to the south on Saturday and six to the north on Sunday. This format has allowed us to move to a central service option for all three days of competition, a format which most competitors and teams favour.”
The Service Park will be at the Coffs Harbour Airport general aviation precinct, a central location close to rally HQ and the Super Special Stage, which is where the event will begin on Thursday night.