Britain's Kris Meeke set the pace this morning in the shakedown for Rally Australia, as the WRC shifted back to gravel.

Meeke set his best time on his third and final blast through the 4.98 km Hydes Creek test, when he completed it in 2 minutes 52.9 seconds. That left him 0.4 seconds up on Citroen team-mate Mads Ostberg.

"It's always better to return to an event where you have competed before," Meeke told Citroen's official website. "I have some good and some not so good memories of this rally. Last year, I set some promising times at the start of the race before making a mistake on the final stage. I hope that I'll be able to use that experience this year.

"The roads are very slippery with plenty of trees right next to the racing line. My aim is to have a perfect rally. I'm going to focus fully on my driving and we'll see where we end up."

"The feeling is pretty good," added Ostberg, who opted for four passes. "Shakedown was important today after having driven on tarmac in Germany. We had to get back up to speed on gravel. The car is handling really well.

"I'm pleased with our morning's work. I think we can fight for a place on the podium. That will be our goal for the weekend."

Rallye Deutschland winner Thierry Neuville was third, 0.4 seconds further back in his Hyundai, while Volkswagen duo and championship protagonists Jari-Matti Latvala and Sebastien Ogier took fourth and fifth, split by 0.1 seconds. Ogier was actually joint fifth with M-Sport man, Mikko Hirvonen both completing the test in 2m 54.4s.

"To be honest, I come into the Rally Australia feeling very positive," said Latvala, who squandered the chance to win in Germany last time out when he made a mistake on the final day.

"The shakedown went very well for us. I like the routes and the scenery around Coffs Harbour. After driving on asphalt at the most recent rally in Germany, it was important to adapt quickly to the road conditions on gravel again. My Polo felt very good and I am determined to challenge for the win again here. I have not forgotten our retirement in Germany, but I have put it behind us. When you make a mistake, but learn from that mistake, it can only make you stronger."

"The stages at the Rally Australia are spectacular and the scenery is uniquely beautiful," Ogier added. "Julien [Ingrassia - my co-driver] and I had a fantastic rally here last year, winning 19 of the 22 special stages.

"The car felt very good during the shakedown. Although the opposition is, in general, a lot closer in general this year, I still have a lead of 44 points over Jari-Matti in the World Drivers' Championship. As a team, we are also in a position to secure the title for Volkswagen in the Manufacturers' Championship here. I am looking forward to what will hopefully be a good weekend for us."

Further back Hayden Paddon took P7 with Andreas Mikkelsen eighth followed by former F1 driver Robert Kubica and Elfyn Evans. Aussie Chris Atkinson was eleventh in his first WRC event since Mexico.

"Good pace notes are essential at the Rally Australia. There are a lot of undulations, blind corners and unforgiving trees nearly everywhere along the narrow special stages. On top of that, we must adjust from driving on asphalt to gravel," said Mikkelsen.

"For me, the shakedown was all about getting used to these specific conditions and getting a good feeling for the Polo. That is all I was focussing on for the first two of the three shakedown runs. Now the rhythm is back, I feel good, and I can't wait to get started tomorrow."

The event now gets underway on Friday with eight stages on the bill and a competitive distance of 95.84 kilometres. SS1, the 10.73 kilometre run through Hydes Creek 1, is due to start tomorrow at 09.18 hours local time.

Rally Australia - Shakedown results (Top 10):

1. Kris MeekeCitroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC 2m 52.9s M
2. Mads OstbergCitroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC 2m 53.3s M
3. Thierry Neuville Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC 2m 53.7s M
4. Jari-Matti LatvalaVolkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC2m 54.3s M
5. Sebastien OgierVolkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC2m 54.4s M
= Mikko HirvonenM-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC2m 54.4s M
7. Hayden Paddon Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC 2m 54.6s M
8. Andreas MikkelsenVolkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC2m 54.7s M
9. Robert KubicaRK M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC2m 54.9s M
10. Elfyn EvansM-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC2m 53.7s M


11. Chris AtkinsonHyundai Motorsport i20 WRC 2m 58.3s M

all times unofficial



Loading Comments...