Significant changes made to WRC Rally Australia
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The large contingent of Kiwi enthusiasts who make the trip to Coffs Harbour to support Kiwi star Hayden Paddon at WRC Rally Australia will encounter significant changes at the 2017 event.
The Kennards Hire Rally Australia organisers have announced the provisional route and itinerary for the November 16-19 event, the final round of the 2017 World Rally Championship.
The main change sees two days of competition on the mainly forest roads just a short distance north of Coffs Harbour. This year only the second day of the rally will head south on the Coffs Coast for stages in the Nambucca Heads and Bowraville regions.
The rally is again based around a Coffs Harbour service park. The opening leg on Friday November 17 features two loops around the Pilbara, East Bank and Sherwood stages.
All three are new stage configurations but incorporate sections of the Bucca, Settles and Plum Pudding stages used in recent years. The longest Friday stage is Sherwood which measures 26.59km with 9.85km of previously unused road combined with the Plum Pudding stage that was last included on the Rally Australia itinerary in 2011.
The opening day will end with two runs through a slightly reconfigured version of the Destination NSW Super Special stage on the Coffs Harbour waterfront that was introduced for the 2016 event.
The rally action that takes place south of the city on November 18 has also been revamped. There is a revised finish section to the long, often decisive Nambucca stage which opens the Saturday action and measures 48.89km in 2017.
Hayden Paddon rates the Nambucca stage among his favourites on the WRC schedule and he scorched to a stage victory there in the first loop of the 2016 event.
The Saturday morning loop also includes a reconfigured Newry stage and a visit to a local rallycross track for a 1.37km super stage.
To provide live television action on Saturday afternoon, the Nambucca stage is split into two parts. The first 33.49km section that was used earlier in the day is called Welsh Creek, while the following 12.33km section is called Argents Hill and will provide the live TV action.
The rally then returns to Coffs Harbour for two more runs at the Destination NSW super special stage.
For the short Sunday sprint of five stages, the rally returns to the roads north of the city.
The first Sunday loop uses the Pilbara Reverse and Bucca stages before the familiar Wedding Bells stage which provides 6.44km of live TV action. In the later run there is Pilbara Reverse before the Wedding Bells Power Stage that offers bonus points and could prove decisive to the 2017 WRC Driver's title.
With the Rally Australia route now comprising 21 stages and 318.16km, there is an additional 35km of competitive driving compared to 2016. And with only 629.45km of touring stages, the Australian event has a compact itinerary by modern WRC standards.
Only Mexico boasts a higher ratio of special stage mileage to total rally distance.