Rally Australia to go down to the wire, Paddon in fifth
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The 2018 World Rally Championship sprints to its conclusion today with a Sunday blast through the forest and shire roads north of Coffs Harbour.
The leader of WRC Rally Australia with five Sunday stages left to run is Belgian driver Thierry Neuville, who is looking to claim his fourth victory of the season for the Hyundai Motorsport squad.
Neuville is also on target to lock down runner-up honours in the world championship which was clinched last month in Wales by Frenchman Sebastien Ogier.
On Saturday Neuville seized the advantage when rally leader Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway) was forced to retire his Hyundai when he suffered two punctures. Mikkelsen had been on target to become the eighth different winner from 13 events this season.
Neuville returned from Saturday’s gravel stages with a rally lead of 19.0s ahead of Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota).
Two runs through the Coffs Harbour super stage last night – which saw Estonia’s Ott Tanak post two stage wins - made some small differences to leader board margins heading into the Sunday stages.
Neuville will begin the final day with a lead of 20.1s chased by the Latvala. Tanak - on his farewell drive with the M-Sport Ford squad before joining Toyota for 2018 – is running third and is 20.5s behind Latvala.
A strong debut effort on Australian roads has pushed Irish driver Craig Breen (Citroen) into fourth place today chased by New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon (Hyundai, below).
Breen is 24.6s behind Tanak and has a 15.9s advantage over Paddon starting the final day while world champion Ogier runs in sixth place and trails Paddon by 27.1secs.
The rally has an 8.40am (NZ time) start today and the first loop of stages includes a reverse run through the 9km Pilbara stage that was used on Friday, the 31.90km Bucca stage and the 6.44km Wedding Bells live TV stage.
There is a return to the Coffs Harbour Service Park at 12.33pm (NZ time) before the Pilbara and Wedding Bells stages are repeated. The second run through Wedding Bells has the Power Stage bonus points on offer.
The rally finishes at 5.30pm (NZ time) in downtown Coffs Harbour.