The final round of the 2016 world championship, this weekend’s Rally Australia, looms as many things, including what will be an emotional farewell to one of the most successful teams in the sport’s history, Volkswagen.
While it will be unsettling to see VW depart, Australia will get one last chance to see the best combination in recent seasons – Sebastien Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia fight for a final victory aboard the championship-winning Volkswagen Polo R WRC.
There’s always a reward when you watch the very best ply their trade.
VW departs after crushing all competitors over the past four years. It’s disappointing but not the end of the world.
Next season, the sport will welcome back Toyota and Citroen factory teams to do battle with improving Hyundai and a strong M-Sport Ford outfit.
At the same time, the contest within a contest, the battle for the Kumho Australian Rally Championship has a tantalising conclusion in wait with three drivers separated by a mere six points.
Subaru privateer and crowd favourite Simon Evans holds the advantage but can’t be comfortable with young guns Molly Taylor (Subaru do Motorsport) and Harry Bates (Neal Bates Motorsport Corolla) well within striking distance.
Mechanical reliability as well as speed will be a priority.
The locals are obviously keen to show their credentials to the international teams, although Taylor says she is more interested in being consistent across the 23 stages.
With 36 WRC cars ahead of the 27 ARC entries on each stage, the course will take a pounding from the sheer volume of cars.
Taylor and co-driver Bill Hayes will again be sharing a Group N production class All-Wheel Drive Subaru WRX STI NR4.
“I’ve only competed in Coffs once before and it’s also a considerably longer rally than the others, so we need a great level of physical and mental discipline to stay on our game,” said Taylor
“There’s a massive variety of conditions across the stages too, from nice flowing shire roads to narrow, rough, technical sections, so it’s a fantastic challenge that we’re looking forward to.”
Subaru has had historical success in Coffs Harbour, with the late Possum Bourne winning four consecutive events there from 1996-99.