Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier blitzed the opposition on Rally Australia on Friday winning all six 'proper' tests to build a comfortable lead.

Ogier, who was fourth after the opening two Coffs super specials on Thursday evening, began the day by immediately setting the pace, 2.9 seconds up on the Citroen of Mikko Hirvonen.

That gave the Frenchman an early 3.3 second cushion and he went on to increase it to 4.4 seconds in SS4, before taking his third stage win on the trot in SS5. Going into the mid-day halt he had an 8.8 second lead.

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On the repeat loop in the afternoon, it was more of the same, with Ogier again winning all three stages and gradually increasing his advantage to 18.4 seconds, ahead of another two runs through the short 1.6 km Coffs super special this evening, which will conclude the day.

"I think we can say today has been perfect - a really good start to the rally," Ogier said after SS8. "There were more rocks on the road [this afternoon] than this morning. There was some dust [too] so the four minute gap [between the cars] was good - my thanks to the organisers. It's been a tricky one so I'm glad it's done."

Hirvonen meanwhile is currently 'best of the rest', having been second quickest in four of the day's six 'proper' tests: "It [SS8] was really good - I'm really happy," said Hirvonen. "It felt clean and we had good drive. I'll just have to wait to see now if our time is good enough to stay in the fight [with Ogier]."

Kris Meeke is next up and the Brit continues to impress, especially given this is only his second outing in the Citroen DS3 WRC. The highlight for him was a second quickest time in SS4 and two third fastest times in SS3 and SS5. He slipped behind Hirvonen on the repeat loop, but still ended up only 7.5 seconds back after Newry 2.

"It was very, very loose in SS8. For sure there was no road advantage this time through - maybe even a disadvantage," stated Meeke, who was running last in the order - in terms of WRC cars - after setting the top time in qualifying. "I tried to keep rhythm but I had to be careful as in some corners it sucks you down so have to try and be sensible."

Behind, Thierry Neuville is fourth for the Qatar World Rally Team, and after struggling on the first loop, he was happier in the afternoon and closed to within 7 seconds of Meeke, posting two second quickest times in SS7 and SS8, despite a moment in Newry 2.

"That [SS8] was a good stage - clean run," Neuville remarked. "I felt comfortable and tomorrow is another day. There was a big rock in the middle of the stage and I think I was lucky to get over it."

Jari-Matti Latvala rounds out the top five, gaining two places in the final test when Mads Ostberg and Andreas Mikkelsen lost time. Latvala struggled on the first loop, but was happier in the afternoon: "It's been an experience and character building day," Latvala summarised. "But we have two days to go so let's see where we can get."

Ostberg, who had a scare in the final stage now lies 1.5 seconds back and 4.3 seconds up on Mikkelsen: "There was a nasty rock on the side of the road and I hit it sideways - and the door came open," recalled the Norwegian. "We almost went off the road and into the trees so we were very lucky. If I'd hit it with the front that would have been it."

Further back, Evgeny Novikov and local driver Nathan Quinn lie eighth and ninth, while Khalid Al-Qassimi rounds out the top ten.

In WRC2, Yuriy Protasov leads post-SS8, after Yazeed Al-Rajhi went off and broke the steering. Al-Rajhi had built up a 23.2 second advantage until his misfortune in Newry 2. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and Arman Smailov are second and third in the support class.

Following the Coffs super specials this evening, Rally Australia then continues on Saturday, with six stages on the bill, including the longest test of the event, the 49.90 km Nambucca stage, which will be run twice.

Rally Australia: Overall standings after Stage 8 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 56m 05.9s M
2. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +18.4s M
3. Kris Meeke Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +25.9s M
4. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +32.9s M
5. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +56.9s M
6. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +58.4s M
7. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +1m 02.7s M
8. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 06.6s M
9. Nathan Quinn MINI John Cooper Works WRC +3m 52.2s
10. Khalid Al-Qassimi Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +4m 32.1s M


11. Yuriy Protasov Ford Fiesta R5 +4m 57.2s WRC2
12. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari Ford Fiesta RRC +5m 26.5s WRC2
13. Arman Smailov Subaru Impreza STi +11m 33.1s WRC2
14. Alejandro Lombardo Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +13m 10.1s WRC2
15. Stephen Turner Ford Fiesta R2 +13m 33.6s

WRC2 standings after Stage 8 (Top 3):

1. Yuriy Protasov Ford Fiesta R5 1hr 01m 03.1s WRC2
2. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari Ford Fiesta RRC +29.3s WRC2
3. Arman Smailov Subaru Impreza STi +6m 35.9s WRC2

Notable retirements:

SS8. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta RRC Hit a bank WRC2

all times unofficial