COMING BACK: 2018 World Champion Sebastien Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia celebrate on the podium. The rally is returning to the Nambucca Shire in 2019.
COMING BACK: 2018 World Champion Sebastien Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia celebrate on the podium. The rally is returning to the Nambucca Shire in 2019. Trevor Veale

Rally Australia's welcome if they pay their bills

KENNARDS Hire Rally Australia will return to some favourite roads in the Nambucca Shire for its 2019 finale of the FIA World Rally Championship.

The event's senior sporting officials have been completing a final review of the rally route this week and will now await formal approval from the world motorsport governing authority in Paris.

The 27th WRC Rally Australia will run from November 14-17, based at the C.ex Coffs International Stadium in Coffs Harbour.

While most of the 300-plus kilometre route north and south of the city is unchanged except for minor details, WRC drivers are expected to welcome a return to the Utungan and North Bank stages, south of Macksville, last used in 2016.

They will replace the Newry stage, farther north, in the Saturday competition schedule. A 5km section of Newry will become the new venue for pre-event testing and shakedown events.

Although back on the itinerary, the 2019 7.53km Utungan and 7.91km North Bank stages will be run in the reverse direction from past years, meaning drivers will face a completely fresh challenge.

The "new” stages were inspected for suitability and safety last week by former Australian WRC star Chris Atkinson, who described them to event organisers as "fantastic, classic WRC stages”.

"They're some of the best roads we've got,” Rally Australia Clerk of the Course Wayne Kenny added.

"They're fast, flowing, open and undulating and quite technical for the drivers. There are numerous corners and hard-packed gravel, which will ensure some impressive speeds from the top WRC cars.

"As a bonus, the scenery around that part of the Nambucca Shire is a magnificent vista of lush green hills and valleys. The images shown to our worldwide television audience will be stunning.”

Sebastien Ogier in action on the final day of the WRC 2018 Kennards Hire Rally Australia.
Sebastien Ogier in action on the final day of the WRC 2018 Kennards Hire Rally Australia. Trevor Veale

Nambucca Shire Council general manager Michael Coulter said he's happy to see the rally return but it does cause headaches.

"We're pretty excited, but we've also had some issues with road repairs in the past. The rally does cause significant road damage,” Mr Coulter said.

"It's different in Coffs Harbour and Bellingen because they use forest roads, but here they are using council roads.

"We're still having ongoing discussions in regards to last year's damage bills, but we've got no problem negotiating with Rally Australia. We've come to agreements on previous bills and they've been paid.”

Mr Coulter said there's also been multiple incidents on the reccy days, but is hopeful they've been resolved by making it one way traffic during those events.

Though in the end, Mr Coulter said the positives outweigh the negatives.

"There's definitely local economic benefits, with tourists staying in town for one or two nights and eating here,” he said.

"Rally themselves particularly like our stage and the drivers enjoy it.”

Rally Australia will be the 14th and final round of this year's series.

It will kick off with the traditional Rally Show and Ceremonial Start on the Coffs Harbour Jetty foreshore on Thursday, November 14 and finish with a globally-televised podium ceremony at the end of the Wedding Bells stage on Sunday afternoon.

A highlight will be two twilight runs on the harbourside Destination NSW Super Special Stage.

Further details of the Rally Australia program would be announced shortly.

Kennards Hire Rally Australia is supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW.



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