THE RALLY AUSTRALIA NOTEBOOK & CITROËN SECRETS
THE RALLY AUSTRALIA NOTEBOOK BY… ESAPEKKA LAPPI
Kennards Hire Rally Australia (14 – 17 November) – Story
Ever since he first competed down under back in 2013, as part of the highly instructive Asia Pacific championship, Esapekka has enjoyed the beautiful Australian stages. The same can't be said as regards his feelings for the inhabitants of its forests…
This is often regarded as being quite a radical departure for us Europeans. What does that mean, in practical terms?
Well, it’s the distance travelled to get here and the time difference, obviously, but also the animals you get here too! Clearly, you don't want to retire at any rally. But that’s even more the case in Australia. There are some sections where the stage runs literally through the jungle, where you really don't want to have to stop or get out the car, given that there are lot of animals that we’re just not used to encountering.
What is the key to being fast at this round?
You need to be brave! The trees are so close to the road that sometimes there’s barely a hair’s breadth between the car and the undergrowth. You have to find the right balance so you don't overdo it when sliding round the corners, even though the ground is extremely slippery.
What do you remember from the first time you competed here in 2013 and your involvement in the Asia Pacific championship?
Yes, that was my first visit to Australia when I came for the Queensland International Rally, also held on the east coast. Since then, I enjoy it every time I come back, even just to visit the country a bit. That’s what I have done the last three years in Sydney. Of course, the rally didn’t have same profile but it was a great experience nonetheless. I learned a lot in experiencing the exotic destinations of this championship. Although all the rallies were held on gravel, each one was specific as regards the road surface, and so also in terms of grip. For example, I’m also very pleased that I got the chance to compete in New Zealand at the time, because the WRC returns to the country next year.
A two-time winner of the rally (2004 and 2005) when it was based in Perth, the Citroën Total World Rally Team has collected a series of podium finishes since it moved in 2009 to the New South Wales region (Kingscliff in 2009 and then Coffs Harbour since 2011), although it did come close to a third win in 2011 with a certain Sébastien Ogier…
The 2011 season was the first time the event had been held in Coffs Harbour. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia thus took advantage of the fact that everybody started on an equal footing as regards knowledge of the stages, immediately hitting the front in their DS3 WRC. The French crew still held the overall lead after SS5, before they – like many others – were caught out by the torrential rain and treacherous conditions that hit the rally that year. Citroën has nevertheless always been very competitive in the New South Wales, with no fewer than five podiums (2ndand 3rdin 2009, 3rdin 2013, 3rdin 2015 and 3rdin 2018) in its last eight appearances.
media.citroenracing.com Photo credit: © @World
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