Loeb wary of Ford threat in Coffs Harbour
Seven-time defending World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb has warned against discounting Ford’s chances of taking out Rally Australia this weekend.
Loeb and his Citroen Racing team-mate Sebastien Ogier have won the last eight successive WRC events between them, with conflict between the pair the championship’s main talking point.
Speaking prior to the official start of the rally tonight, Loeb refuted the suggestion that Australian event will be a two-horse race.
“We also have to fight with the Ford – I think we forget a bit early about the other drivers,” Loeb told media, including Speedcafe.com, in Coffs Harbour.
“At the moment we will clean them the road, so maybe we will not be in an easy position at the end of the weekend. I don’t know. At the moment we will do our race and then we will see.”
With the pre-event recce now complete, the Frenchman gave his assessment of the Coffs Harbour stages.
“It is always a bit more difficult when you only have two passes – you have to be very concentrated in the recce and take good notes,” said Loeb.
“The stages are very wide and fast. There are also some narrow parts, but generally the stages are quite fast – some are very fast.
“For the rest, the second leg is looking really like New Zealand, (while) the first and third one are looking more like Australia the last time we were here (2009).”
Loeb will complete tomorrow’s stages as the first car on the road due to his status as championship leader, but is not yet sure of how great his disadvantage will be.
“The first day is not the worst for the road condition,” he said.
“For sure there are some loose parts, but there are some parts which are quite clean. We will see.
“It depends also on the weather. We have heard there could be rain, but we will not know until tomorrow.”
Loeb currently leads the Drivers’ Championship by 25 points over Ogier with four rounds remaining.
A one-two finish in Rally Australia would guarantee Citroen a fourth successive Constructors’ Championship crown.
While the Citroen charge is all set for the rally, M-Sport Stobart driver Evgeny Novikov was the first to strike trouble – crashing in Shakedown this morning.
“On the second pass I cut the corner too much, and the steering arm was broken, but the car is not bad – it’s not a big problem for me,” he said.
Two Special Stages will be held along the Coffs Harbour waterfront tonight, with SS1 kicking off at 7:15pm local time.
See below for Speedcafe.com’s Rally Australia Race Guide