Hyundai Heads For Australian Gravel
26th October 2001
Hyundai Heads For Australian Gravel With Renewed Vigour
Hyundai Castrol World Rally Team crews Kenneth Eriksson and Staffan Parmander, and Alister McRae and David Senior head for the 13th and penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Australia, following a points boost for the Korean marque on the previous tarmac round.
The Australasian event is a firm favourite of many competitors who are treated to a hot, spring climate on what is considered one of the most challenging surfaces in the Championship. The Western Australian gravel is loose and slippery due to its ball bearing-like shape, and combined with a lot of sand makes car control and accuracy crucial. In previous years it has proved so difficult for whoever was running first on the road, that the organisers have considered the needs of the Championship contenders by introducing a new system where drivers can choose their starting position on the road for the next day.
While this will greatly improve performance of the Championship leaders, it will also make performance more difficult for those who are not leading the Championship. As one of his favourite rallies, Alister McRae is looking forward to the event but acknowledges the potential difficulties he may have. “It should be a good event – it usually has been for us, and although I think we can still get a good result, we will probably be hampered by the new seeding,” said the Scot.
Swedish team-mate Kenneth Eriksson, who finished third in Australia last year, agrees with McRae regarding the potential seeding difficulties, but is excited to be getting back behind the wheel of his Accent WRC², from which he has had a break since the team’s last longhaul event. “ I am really looking forward to driving in Australia. I love the event and we came third last year so I am excited to see how well we can do this year with the revised Accent,” said the Swede. “It has also been a few weeks since Staffan [Parmander] and I competed, so I am definitely fired up.”
According to David Senior, co-driver to Alister McRae, “It will be good returning to gravel after two tarmac rallies on the trot. Rally Australia has a unique nature and no other event can really compare; the gravel is like ball bearings; very round and very sandy on the narrower stages making it incredibly slippery.
Our biggest concern this year will obviously the fact that the seeding has changed, allowing all manufacturer priority one competitors to self-select their start positions for the next day. Australia has always been a difficult event for whoever is first on the road, and for all other events it runs in Championship standing order. That can be difficult here, as it is the penultimate round of the season and the Championship is so close that all those in contention want as good a run as possible. It does mean, however, that as we have fewer points, we are likely to get last choice of starting position and be first or second on the road, which is certainly far from ideal.”
The event begins with the Langley Park superspecial stage on the evening of Thursday 1 November, which is used again at the end of legs one and two. Leg one proper takes crews due west of the Rally HQ base of Perth for 147.76 competitive kilometres in the forests around Mundaring. Leg two covers less timed distance at 141.12 kilometres, but has the longest roads sections taking competitors down south Collie and Harvey; crews leave at 05:50 and don’t return until 20:36. A relatively short third leg heads to the Sotico timber plantation, southeast of Perth before returning to the finish at 16:00hrs. Perth, Australia is GMT+8 hours.
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