Neuville sets the early pace at Aussie leg of world rally
THIERRY Neuville overcame an early technical problem to set fastest time in today's Shakedown in the Kennards Hire Rally Australia at Coffs Harbour.
The Belgian spent much of the morning session parked in the Hyundai service area, while his team investigated an engine oil leak that stopped his i20 before it had even reached the stage.
The problem was traced to a crank trigger component, and once this was fixed, Neuville squeezed in three runs of the 5.02km Boyds Road test, claiming a best time of 2m56.3s on the final pass.
Ford Fiesta driver Elfyn Evans and Stéphane Lefebvre in Citroën's C3 tied second quickest, five-tenths behind Neuville.
In hot, dry and sunny conditions, Ott Tänak set the pace through the opening run, recording a 3m00.5s in his Fiesta, before Kris Meeke powered his C3 to the top of the standings after the second pass.
But both times were eclipsed as the road cleaned and a deep layer of loose gravel was swept from the surface.
Jari-Matti Latvala claimed the fourth fastest time in his fourth and final run. Meeke ended fifth while Tänak and Craig Breen tied sixth.
Esapekka Lappi, Andreas Mikkelsen and New Zealand's Hayden Paddon completed the top ten times.
The Kennards Hire Rally Australia is one of just 13 events on one of the most elite calendars in motorsport, the FIA World Rally Championship.
With the WRC's greatest attractions including the diversity of landscapes, weather, and cultures on its annual global tour, Kennards Hire Rally Australia showcases the unique, sub-tropical setting of the Coffs Coast to a massive audience of spectators and television viewers.
Staged from today until Sunday, it is the 25th time Australia has hosted an FIA World Rally Championship round.
The inaugural event at Western Australia in 1988 was so successful that Australia was awarded its first WRC round for the following year.