As teams arrived in New South Wales earlier this week for the 2019 Rally Australia, the stakes were different to those that were at play when the same fixture was the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship’s curtain-closer. At the same time last year, both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles were still up for grabs, with M-Sport’s Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC, now Citroën C3 WRC) just three points clear of Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC). The French pair went on to claim their sixth straight crown…

This season, Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) wrapped up the Drivers’ fight in Spain, on October 27, which meant all eyes in Australia were going to be on the battle for the top Manufacturers’ prize between Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT and Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT who were split by 18 points with 43 available.

 

Due to the wildfires that have devastated large swathes of Australian bush and forest in recent days, however, that battle failed to materialise and the classification remained as it stood before the trip out to the southern hemisphere. The catastrophic circumstances initially prompted the organisers to reduce its originally-planned route (1,084km, including 324.53km against-the-clock) by two-thirds. But as the situation in the Coffs Harbour region worsened, they had no choice but to cancel their event altogether for obvious safety reasons. Following this decision, the WRC promoter channelled its resources into assisting the local firefighters and providing what help it could to the local population.

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