THE World Rally Championship is widely regarded as the most challenging motorsport competition in the world.

Conditions on this epic motorsport adventure range from the ice and snow of Sweden to the stifling heat of Jordan – and in September the smooth, fast forestry and shire roads of Rally Australia on the Coffs Coast.

Winning requires skill, concentration, teamwork and endurance of man and machine while racing on narrow gravel roads at up to 200kmh.

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Cars competing at the top level of the sport are known as world rally cars and from this year are based on four-cylinder 1.6-litre production cars.

While they might resemble the Ford Fiestas, Citroen DS3s or Mini Countrymen found in a new-car showroom, upgrades to the engine, transmission, suspension and body mean a WRC car is a stripped-out million-dollar monster that develops more than 225kWand 600Nm of torque.

Power is directed to all four wheels via a six-speed, sequential-change gearbox.

Regardless of the road surface, a WRC car can accelerate from rest to 100kmh in around three seconds.

Because events such as Rally Australia typically run for three days, cars and drivers need to take a break and will visit the Service Park, based at the Coffs Harbour Regional Airport, at scheduled times.

Besides checking the car and changing tyres, a team of eight technicians is allowed to perform mechanical work during a service break.

THE Coffs Coast will host Rally Australia, the country’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship, and is the third location in its 21-year history.

Rally Australia started in Perth in 1988 as a round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship and joined the World Rally Championship the following year.

It ran in the West until 2006 and resumed with Repco Rally Australia on the Northern Rivers in September 2009.

The event was the most successful on record, despite opposition from a small but active group of residents in the Murwillumbah and Kyogle Shires, it attracted more than 86,000 spectators to ticketed and free venues, 20,000 new visitors to the region, $16.9 million in new economic benefit and a global TV audience in excess of 53 million, the third biggest of the 2009 WRC season.

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