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SPECTACULAR 101 CAR FIELD LINES UP FOR RALLY AUSTRALIA

After all entries were confirmed today, organisers reported 31 starters, including 25 from overseas, for round 10 of the 2011 FIA World Rally Championship on 8-11 September.

Companion events bring the total entry to the biggest for an Australian championship rally in recent years.

Round four of the Bosch Australian Rally Championship has attracted 43 cars from around the country and the Coffs Coast Classic Rally will start 27 cars.

Rally Australia’s sporting chief, Clerk of Course Dr Michelle Gatton, said the huge number of cars heading for the Coffs Coast promised a feast of world-class motorsport for spectators.

“This is really something to look forward to. The absolute best rally drivers from overseas and Australia will be here in just 20 days and the action will be unforgettable,” Dr Gatton said.

“Our own target was to achieve 100 entries and we have done that even after a couple of late withdrawals. It is an excellent result that should encourage a big crowd of spectators,” Dr Gatton said.

Tickets for Rally Australia are on-sale now from $15 at Ticketek (www.ticketek.com.au or ph. 132 849).

Spectating opportunities include the nightly Super Special Stage at The Jetty precinct in Coffs Harbour and dedicated locations on the daytime gravel Special Stages.

Rally Australia Chairman Ben Rainsford welcomed the big Australian contingent heading for the Coffs Coast.

“The Australian rally community has stepped up to play a big part in this event,” Mr Rainsford said.

“Not only are the teams demonstrating the healthy state of the sport in this county, they are also taking the opportunity to participate in a world-standard rally event on their own doorstep and to enjoy the privilege of competing alongside the world’s best drivers from the WRC.”

Heading the international entry list are seven-time world champion Sebastien Loeb and fellow Frenchman Sebastien Ogier, from the Citroen Total World Rally Team, and their Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team rivals Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, both from Finland.

Loeb is currently leading the WRC drivers’ standings from Hirvonen, who won Rally Australia in 2009.

The 2007 Formula 1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) and 2003 World Rally Champion Petter Solberg (Norway) have lodged privateer Citroen entries.

Ford will be hoping its strong line-up is enough to break a seven-round winning streak for the Citroen DS3 WRC car.

Lining up for the Blue Oval side in Ford Fiesta RS WRCs are Henning Solberg (Norway), Matthew Wilson (UK), Ken Block (USA), Khalid al Qassimi (United Arab Emirates), Evgeny Novikov (Russia) and Peter van Merksteijn (Holland).

BMW-owned Mini, a new WRC entrant in 2011, is represented by Brazilian privateer Daniel Oliveira.

Seven Australian teams are in the final WRC field. The top-seeded Australian is WRC Academy regular Brendan Reeves, from Wedderburn, Victoria.

Nathan Quinn from Coffs Harbour and Leigh Gotch from Evans Plans, NSW, have won wildcard entries to the Production Car World Rally Championship division, which will field entries from 11 other international crews.

Rally Australia will cover around 369 kms of competition in 26 Special Stages between Thursday night and Sunday afternoon.

Following a rally show and official start from 4.30pm on Thursday, big crowds are expected at the Super Special Stage in Coffs Harbour’s beachside Jetty precinct on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and on the daytime rural Special Stages.