Rally Australia has passed its first test on its return to the World Rally Championship, the drivers praising the New South Wales stages. The crews have now completed the first day of their recce of the east coast roads.
This is the first year Australia has hosted a WRC round outside of Perth in Western Australia. Despite a long day of recce, the drivers were happy with what they'd seen.
Citroen Junior Team driver Conrad Rautenbach said: "The roads are good. They're mostly quite fast and wide, which is great. They're quite similar to New Zealand on some of the farm roads in Waikato – and as fast as Finland but without the crests. It's been a good day, some of the stages run through some park land, so we've seen a kangaroo and a koala bear already. This is definitely Australia!"
Rautenbach added, however, that finding the perfect solution for the car setup could take time at Thursday morning's shakedown stage.
Running outside of Europe, the teams are not allowed to test in Australia. The teams had all sent representatives to see the roads, but today was the first time for the drivers to catch a glimpse of the stages.
"There are a few changes in the road surface and a few changes in character of the stages from what we've seen today," said Rautenbach. "It's not going to be easy to get the car set-up right straight away. We'll have to work on that."
The organizers of the event will be happy to report there have been no protests about the world championship's arrival in town. The drivers reported seeing a couple of posters telling them to go home, but nothing sinister.
The opening day of the recce ran in sunshine and 90 degree heat, the conditions which are expected to remain for this 10th round of the World Rally Championship.