French ace Sebastien Ogier has seized an early lead going into the first service on Day 1 of Coates Hire Rally Australia at Coffs Harbour.
After winning the second Super Special stage the previous evening, Ogier (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) claimed the opening three forest stages.
The world champion elect has forged to an 8.8s lead over Kris Meeke (Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team) with Mikko Hirvonen in another factory Citroen holding third overall.
Local driver Nathan Quinn remains only 1.3s out of ninth place overall going into the opening day’s afternoon stages in the John Cooper Works WRC Mini.
It was a tidy display by Quinn in his first competitive forest run in a WRC car.
“It might not have been fast but it was for the brave – a dream come true while trying to learn to drive the car,” a delighted Quinn said.
“I really enjoyed it.”
Ogier moved ever so closer to sealing the championship with a strong morning run alongside co-driver Julien Ingrassia in the works Polo.
In the SS5, the first run through the 24.91km Newry section, Ogier was able to extend his lead but remains cautious.
“It was still a tricky one. The road isn’t clean (and it’s) so hard to find a good line.”
Thierry Neuville is holding fourth, 25.6s behind Ogier in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC with Mads Ostberg in another Ford fifth.
Andreas Mikkelsen (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) has lost valuable time on the first morning, and is 37s off his team-mate in sixth place overall after winning the opening Super Special on Thursday night.
Top 10 overall after SS5
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