Ford driver Mikko Hirvonen will be chasing a Rally Australia hat-trick when the Coffs Harbour-based event gets under way on Thursday evening this week.
The Finn won the final rally in Perth in 2006 and the one-off event in northern New South Wales two years ago. That 2009 success was Hirvonen's last win on gravel, he's hoping to end that drought this week.
"A hat trick would be a welcome conclusion to the weekend," said Hirvonen. "I enjoy Australia and the rally usually has a relaxed feel which helps with the preparation. I'm looking forward to being back on the gravel after the asphalt in Germany."
This week's Rally Australia is a completely new event for the whole field, placing the emphasis on the crew's ability to make accurate pace notes with just two passes of the stages.
"It's essential to learn quickly," admitted Hirvonen. "But getting a feel for the characteristics of the roads is equally vital."
In an effort to glean more information on the east coast roads, Ford's tire engineer George Black traveled to the region in June to inspect the stages.
Black said: "There is a mix of hard base roads, some tight and twisty and others that are fast and flowing. Some parts resemble the countryside in which the rally used to be held in Western Australia. Others are similar to the famous Whaanga Coast stage in New Zealand, with dense rain forest vegetation."