STÉPHANE LEFEBVRE FLIES DOWN UNDER
A very closely contested Rally Australia shakedown saw the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews in excellent form. Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau set the best performance of the C3 WRCs with the second fastest time overall.
- Rally Australia's 5.02km-long shakedown was extremely representative of all of the difficulties of the course. It incorporated large sections of the road used for the Wedding Bells Power Stage, which will conclude the season early on Sunday afternoon.
- As private testing is forbidden outside of Europe, this session was particularly important in completing preparations for the year's final rally.
- In the early part of the morning, Kris Meeke completed the three mandatory runs. He held the fastest time of the session at that point, with a 2:57.2. After returning to service, he headed back out again for two more runs in order to try out some new set-up options.
- The two other Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews were a little bit slower to get into their stride. The first few runs of Craig Breen and Stéphane Lefebvre were disrupted by intercom problems for the Irishman and a spin for the Frenchman. They returned to service after two runs, then headed back out to tackle the Australian rainforest roads again. On their third attempt, they both improved, setting exactly the same time!
- As more cars came through the stage, the racing line cleaned and the times just kept dropping. On his fourth and final run, Stéphane Lefebvre therefore flew to the top of the timesheets! Thierry Neuville then improved the benchmark and the Frenchman ended the shakedown in joint second position.
- Unable to improve on his last two attempts, Kris Meeke ended the session with the fifth best time, whilst Craig Breen finished sixth after completing four passes.
- This afternoon, the competitors will meet with fans in the centre of Coffs Harbour. Photographs, an autograph signing session and the ceremonial start will provide the finishing touches to preparations for the main event as the small seaside resort moves into full WRC mode.
Stéphane Lefebvre: "I felt a bit rusty on my first run this morning. My second attempt was better, but I stalled in a hairpin. After coming back to service, I understood that I needed to brake slightly earlier in order to exit to the corners in better shape. By putting this approach into practice, I set a great time on my fourth run and I'm really pleased about that. I'm going to make the most of what we learned this morning when we start the rally."
Kris Meeke: "It was an interesting shakedown, because it included part of the Power Stage so we can really get a good idea of everyone's performance level. Right from the word go, on the first run, I had a good feeling in my C3 WRC. We still took advantage of the session to try out some different set-up options and improve our knowledge of the car on this surface. I really enjoy this rally and I feel confident after this morning's session. We'll see if that's confirmed when the race starts!"
Craig Breen: "The roads and the scenery on this rally are truly magnificent. It might just be the most beautiful rally on in the world! After scrapping our first run because of an intercom problem, we worked well on the set-up and improved the car as we completed more passes. I'm really looking forward to this rally, which feels like a bit of an adventure."
1. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:56.3
2. Lefebvre / Moreau (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:56.8
2. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:56.8
4. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:57.1
5. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:57.2
6. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:57.7
6. Tänak / Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2:57.7
8. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:57.9
8. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:57.9
10. Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) 2:58.6