Pure driving pleasure.
The gravel roads surrounded by eucalyptus trees are completely flat and overwhelmingly fast. In contrast to the preceding world championship runs like the Acropolis Rally, the drivers don’t have to watch out for their cars as much in the Australian rainforest. On the hard and firm gravel – which is similar to that found in the Finland Rally – the drivers can put their foot down at will without having to worry too much about tyre damage or suspension problems. In Australia, it’s all about adopting a driving style that is clean and as fast as possible; it is pure driving pleasure. This is where the wheat is separated from the chaff.
Date: 12 till 14 September 2014
There’s a group of people who are often overlooked during a rally, and that’s the co-drivers. They are, of course, unjustly overlooked, because rallying is a team sport, and without a co-driver’s very quick instructions, it would be impossible for a driver to drive a WRC vehicle at high speed. After all, you’re sure to run into trouble if you’re driving at 160 km/h without any idea of whether you need to steer left or right after the next corner.
Miikka Anttila about Rally Australia.
What’s different about Rally Australia?
I always particularly look forward to this rally. Australia is an extreme and fantastic country with unique rallying conditions. Take the huge trees that line the track, for example. The substratum there isn’t all that different from the gravel rallies in Europe, but everything else is. You have to keep reminding yourself that eight of the world’s ten most poisonous snakes are found in Australia. Which means you don’t just nonchalantly go for a walk – you have to be really careful with every step you take.
What do you have to pay particular attention to in Australia?
The huge trees are very dangerous, because they’re right beside the track. You have to make sure they are accurately included in the pace notes and you have to drive very precisely and with as little oversteer as possible in order not to hit them.
What has been your finest moment in Australia?
The 2011 rally, which was the first year that we went to Coffs Harbour. We got off to a relatively weak start, and even spun the car during the first special stage. But then the leading Citroëns driven by Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier experienced some problems and they both had to give up. So all of a sudden we were in second place, behind Mikko Hirvonen. Which is the order that we ultimately finished the rally in.
And what about your worst moment in Australia?
It was something I’d never experienced during the World Rally Championship before. There was a special stage in Kingscliff in 2009 and the people who live there weren’t at all keen on the rally. There were even people lining the track waving ‘Rally go home’ signs – it was unbelievable! Rumour has it that the people there are in the habit of illegally growing cannabis, so they were worried that one of the WRC helicopter crews might discover their cannabis crops.