The World Rally Championship is the pinnacle of rallying. The top WRC cars use AWD, produce around 380hp, and shoot from 0-100km/h in under four seconds. On dirt. The last event on the WRC calendar was the 2018 Rally Australia at Coffs Harbour, NSW. We tagged along courtesy of Hyundai Australia to give you a first-hand look at what it’s all about.
There’s something about rallying that brings out the best in people. Perhaps it could be the fact the driver’s risk everything for glory, coming within centimetres of trees and drop-offs. This is a high energy sport on and off the track.
From what we can see the rally at Coffs Harbour is really taken in by the community. The whole event is planned years in advance. Everything is measured down to the minute. From the time each car launches from each stage, to the places where spectators can and cannot stand.
We were lucky enough to ride in a helicopter between stages. One thing that was a bit of a blowout was just how high helicopters can go. They really give you a different perspective than flying in a plane. You feel so much more raw atmosphere, with pretty much full 360-degree vision. Flying in a plane is cool, but helicopters present a different level of mobility.
Flying out of Raleigh on Saturday showed us a carpark that was absolutely jam packed full of cars. The great thing about these special stages is you’ve got complete vision of the whole stage — you’re there, you’re sat up high on the hill and can see every last piece of action. The remote stages are great for getting you close to the action, but venues like Raleigh give families the opportunity to huddle together and share the WRC experience.
Our Rally Australia Service Park visit has to be one of the coolest things we did all weekend. Getting close to the action, seeing the WRC cars fling through the forest is definitely insane to see, but understanding how it all comes together gives you a real appreciation of how cool this sport is. None of the buildings you see are permanent structures. It’s all setup and packed up within a week or so.
While we can’t speak about the other pits, we can definitely vouch that Hyundai takes great care of its WRC staff, drivers, and guests. This setup shows you just how serious Hyundai is about making an impact in this sport. Everything down to the coffee cups is printed with Hyundai WRC insignia to remind you why you’re there. There’s no special seats for important people, it’s just one big team getting on with the job at hand.
WRC, while no doubt employing Formula One-like points of precision, has a more relaxed atmosphere with really great access to get an up-close look at how the sport works. And we don’t just mean from a nice hospitality suite. The average punter has much the same access to see everything unfold.
It doesn’t really matter what kind of motorsport you’ve been to, standing on the side of a forest road, soaking up all that nature has to offer, the shrieking noise of a turbocharged 380hp four-cylinder WRC car makes the hairs on your arms stand up. The only thing that constantly revolves around your brain is just how accurate these guys can drive in such slippery conditions, and for the most part, completely unknown to them, albeit with some notes in the co-driver’s hands.
Sebastian Ogier takes out the 2018 WRC crown after running a decent enough rally and with the bad luck of some of the others who were in contention. Jari-Matti Latvala won the 2018 WRC Rally Australia event, with Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon finishing second — have to be happy with that.
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A special shout-out goes to the helicopter pilots from HAWCS. You guys are superstars. Hit them up if you need a ride in the sky.