Recently we were contacted by Rally Australia, with a request to attend the media launch for the Coffs Coast stage.
Being the final stage for the WRC and on our own shores, we were thrilled by the opportunity!

A few short emails later and they had organised flights and accommodation at the picturesque Opal Cove Resort, which is the yearly Rally Australia Headquarters during competition and a hive of activity from the operations and communication center

As myself and a few other automotive journalists flew in over Coffs Harbour it was easy to see why they had chosen this beautiful coastal location to host the action.

Coffs Harbour aerial image

On arrival in the terminal we were greeted by Josh from TLA and Rally Australia’s Event Administration Coordinator, Samantha Dawson, who drove us to the resort while telling us about Russell Crowe’s farm among other interesting facts about the area.

That night we all gathered again and met the media and marketing team where we learned of the rally’s place within Coffs Harbour and what we were in store for the very next morning. A lot of the team had been a part of the rally since its move to the Mid-North Coast in 2011. The complete event is comprised of just over 300kms of madness and we’re going to get a small taste of it at the Wedding Bells Stage not too far from the headquarters

Fast forward to the next day, and my nerves are just about shot at the prospect of slingshotting through the forest. Add to that the fact that it’s now been raining for at least 24 hours. We pile into two vans and hit the road. Its only a short 15-20 minute drive down the main highway then off on the beaten track and into the forest we go. The team pointing out to us farms where the locals allow them to use parts as carparks and shuttle pickup points. My nervousness soon turns to sheer excitement as we arrive at the staging point and the cars are sitting already muddied and set to go, the first one i notice being a complete replica Audi Quattro  which i’d heard whispers that it may be there.

We step out and get introduced to the drivers that have made their way up for the launch, Mark Beard, Nathan Quinn, Adrian Coppin and Mal Keogh. Thankfully with Kennards Hire being the major sponsors they had a few big marquees set up to keep us dry. I watched as the first car went out to the start point on the soggy track and got ready to launch into the wilderness. With a few almighty cracks and a lot of mud it was off! We could hear it screaming off through the distance while people climbed into the remaining cars ready for their adventure.

Adrian Coppin Toyota Corolla S2000_3 (Bruce Thomas pic)

Before too long the first car was back…

Adrian Coppin Toyota Corolla S2000_1 (Bruce Thomas)

but pulled back into the staging area with a grim message. Due to the torrential rain the area had been experiencing for longer than desired. It had left sections of the track looking more like a lake and brought too much clay to the surface. Senior safety officer in charge Adrian Coppin, huddled with forestry and other officials, and it was decided that the drivers would need to drive a modified version of the course and in a more subdued manner than what they would be during competition.

With the safety update out of the way, i’d picked out a helmet that fitted my eager head and I climbed into Mark Beard’s Subaru.

Mark Beard Subaru RS (Bruce Thomas pic)

Strapped in for dear life, we shot off and the journey began! Mark was very calm and collected, even as we managed to get a few feet airborne through the first part. Then as we had to slow through the middle section, we got to perform another standing start and tear our way along the remaining leg, even sneaking in a second lap (i’m not even sorry)

After a bit of a debrief I watched a couple of the other cars make their way around the track.

Nathan Quinn Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9_3 (Bruce Thomas pic)

Nathan Quinn Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9_1 (Bruce Thomas pic)


I finally got my turn in the Audi Quattro with Mal Keough, where he told me about how he’d brought the shell over and created a complete replica with all genuine parts. Every second of the lap in this felt! With every crackle it made and the whine of the straight cut gears. It’d been a childhood dream to ride in one of these, what a privilege that it also happened on a rally stage!

Mal Keough Audi quattro S1 Group B replica_1 (Dallas Dogger pic)


Mal Keough Audi quattro S1_3 (Bruce Thomas pic)

Mal Keough Audi quattro S1 Group B replica_2 (Dallas Dogger pic)

What a rush! Playtime was over after this and we tried to wipe what mud we could off ourselves before heading back into town, to the Surf Club for the official media presentation. We were graced with the presence of the likes of the Mayor of Coffs Harbour Denise Knight, Rally Australia Chairman Ben Rainsford, Media Manager Chris Nixon and many others


With world class drivers making their way to Australia, announcements of a major vehicle manufacturer coming on board, not one but TWO super special stages, with one of those taking place in the jetty precinct of Coffs Harbour with a very exciting track layout and a harbour backdrop! Add to that the fact that we’d also been given our very own taste of the excitement that occurs in the forest stages, it didnt take long for us to agree to be a part of the magic and return in November

If you’re into motorsport even in the slightest, or a bit of an adrenalin junkie… this is not to be missed!

Stay tuned for more and a big thank you to the Rally Australia team for having us

Photos courtesy of Rally Australia

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