Jari-Matti Latvala topped the times on shakedown for the latest round of the World Rally Championship season in Australia.
The Ford driver posted best time of 1min 58.9secs from his five runs through the shakedown test, which was held on a 3.77-kilometre stage some 30km from the rally base in Coffs Harbour.
Latvala's quickest time was good enough to beat Petter Solberg
to the benchmark time by 0.2secs.
“It's a real confidence boost to be fastest on roads new to us all,” Latvala said. “I am happy to be back on gravel and the fast and flowing stages here are the type of roads that I like.
“We know from this morning the car is going to be competitive here so fighting for victory this weekend is our only aim.”
Henning Solberg was third quickest in his Fiesta, completing more passes than any other driver, while Sebastien Ogier
was the only other man to dip below the two minute mark with the fourth fastest time. Mikko Hirvonen
and current points leader Sebastien Loeb
rounded out the top six.
Seventh was Matthew Wilson
in his Stobart
Ford with team-mate Evgeny Novikov
in eighth, although the Russian only posted one timed run through shakedown before running into problems in his Fiesta. A misheard pacenote saw him slide off the road on just his second run through the stage, damaging the front of his Fiesta and putting him out of the rest of the test.
“On the second pass in a left corner we cut too much and touched a wall and the steering arm was broken so we had to stop,” he reflected. “It was not possible to take the car from the shakedown so we didn't drive more. The car is not bad so it is not a big problem for me.”
Peter van Merksteijn and Ken Block followed behind in ninth and tenth amongst a small field which this weekend features only twelve WRC cars.
Kimi Raikkonen was due to be amongst them before withdrawing his entry from the event.Rally Australia – Shakedown times:
1. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC 01mins 58.9secs
2. Petter Solberg
DS3 WRC 01mins 59.1secs
3. Henning Solberg
Ford Fiesta RS WRC 01mins 59.6secs
4. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 01mins 59.8secs
5. Mikko Hirvonen
Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC 02mins 00.6secs
6. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 02mins 01.0secs
7. Matthew Wilson
Ford Fiesta RS WRC 02mins 01.6secs
8. Evgeny Novikov
Ford Fiesta RS WRC 02mins 04.4secs
9. Peter van Merksteijn
Van Merksteijn Citroen
DS3 WRC 02mins 05.0secs
10. Ken Block
Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 02mins 05.4secs