Drivers reeling from the wreckage

Finnish Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen edges clear of the field after a destructive day of rallying action.
Finnish Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen edges clear of the field after a destructive day of rallying action.

THE Coffs Coast has already earned its place in World Rally infamy.

In a day of high drama:

  • World champion Sebastien Loeb suffered an extreme roll-over 
  • Team-mate Sebastien Ogier spun out and crashed into a tree 
  • American Ken Block had a rear wheel crippled after crashing 
  • Russian Evgeny Novikov stopped halfway into a stage after hitting a boulder
  • And countless other top flight drivers fell victim to the treacherous routes with high-speed spin-outs and smashes.

Heading into the second full day of competition and if parts of the sporting world didn't already know Rally Australia is on, they should now.

The teams agree its one of the toughest events in the WRC in some years.

Many say it's shaping up as a true rally of attrition, after the Eastern Dorrigo's testing tracks and driving rain brought even the world's best unstruck, leading to a mountain of mechanical problems.

Loeb was leading the world championship qualifier by two seconds when he rolled an estimated five times approximately halfway through the 12.78km Brooklana fourth stage.

"I went too fast into the right-hander because I done the mistake when I saw a split time on the dash," Loeb said.

"I was not concentrated, I didn't brake enough for the corner and I was too fast."

Ogier looked likely to capitalise on the mishap and try and draw level with his namesake in the race for the world title.

But as he moved to set up a commanding lead, he too struck trouble in the sixth stage at Shipman's, stopping a kilometre down the track after spinning out and hitting a tree.

"We hit something too hard for the car, we hit a tree and we destroyed our radiator and we had to stop," Ogier said. 

Block retired in the opening test when the left-rear wheel of his Fiesta was torn off in a brush with the timber.

Then the forested tracks also took their toll on others.

The two Finns Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen were said to have best handled the trying conditions.

Hirvonen claimed his first stage win to move 9.5 seconds clear of Ford team-mate Latvala.

 "The conditions were hell and I'm just happy to be here. This was one of the most difficult days I have had in my career," Hirvonen said.

Privateer and former world champion Petter Solberg held close company in third.

 "I've never driven in conditions like this before, it has been unbelievable," Solberg said.

Coffs Coast privateer Nathan Quinn also endured a roll-over in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, yet bounced back to record the seventh quickest time overall in lat night's superspecial to elevate him to a stage win in the WRC production class. 

Already Rally Australia has a crash reel longer than most entire championship rounds.



Topics:  coffs world rally championship 2011 sebastien loeb

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