Officials have moved swiftly to extend the intervals between competitors after crews raised fears that dusty conditions had compromised safety on the eve of Coates Hire Rally Australia at Coffs Harbour.
Leading World Rally Championship drivers Sebastien Ogier and Kris Meeke voiced concerns following the practice and qualifying runs where dust created visibility problems.
Clerk of the Course Adrian Stafford issued a bulletin within two hours after qualifying to all competitors that the P1 and P2 drivers will start at three-minute intervals with the remaining drivers starting at two-minute gaps.
Meeke, the fastest in qualifying in his works Citroen, made a plea that the gap should be increased.
“We need the bigger gaps out there. I don’t think it’s hurting anyone to have longer gaps,” Meeke said.
Ogier, the Volkswagen factory sensation who is on the brink of being crowned world champion this weekend, concurred.
“I definitely think it’s wise to have bigger gaps. We need to make it as safe as possible,” Ogier told Speedcafe.com
Predictably Meeke has elected to start on the road 10th for the opening special stage with Ogier ninth followed by Neuville in reverse order to the qualifying positions.
Local Nathan Quinn in the Motorsport Italia-prepared MINI will become the road sweeper as first to blast off.
Ahead of the WRC field are 353km of competitive driving across 22 special stages from tomorrow.
STARTING ORDER: Nathan Quinn/Glenn Macneall (MINI John Cooper Works WRC), Khalid Al Qassimi (Citroen DS3 WRC), Jari-Matti Latvala/Anttila Miikka (Volkswagen Polo R WRC), Evgeny Novikov/Ilka Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC), Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (Citroen DS3 WRC), Andreas Mikkelsen/Paul Nagle (Volkswagen Polo R WRC), Mads Ostberg/Jonas Andersson (Ford Fiesta RS WRC), Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Ford Fiesta RS WRC), Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC), Kris Meeke/Chris Patterson (Citroen DS3 WRC).