FAST LANE: Northern Irishman Kris Meeke was among the drivers who thrilled the record crowds.
FAST LANE: Northern Irishman Kris Meeke was among the drivers who thrilled the record crowds.

Thousands flock to rally

SÉBASTIEN Ogier was not the only winner during last week's Coates Hire Rally Australia championships.

Local businesses were among those benefiting from record crowds soaking up the action as the world's fastest rally drivers contested our region's roads.

More than 54,700 spectators lined the routes during the four-day event - an increase of approximately 3000 people from last year's event.

Rally Australia chairman Ben Rainsford said the event was made possible by the thousands of people associated with the running of the rally including officials, supporters, media and police.

"We made a number of changes this year and the fact it went right down to the last stage made it very exciting for spectators," he said.

For the first time a major section was staged outside the iconic Pub With No Beer and publican Trevor Walsh said it was "all hands on deck" to ensure the crowds were catered for.

"This is usually our quiet time and we usually rely on a few functions to help us out before people start to travel in the warmer months," he said.

"To have this many people here was fantastic and it's not just good for us, but all businesses on the coast."

Sébastien Ogier of France won the Coates Hire Rally Australia and his third consecutive FIA World Rally Championship.

The Volkswagen driver finished 12.3 seconds ahead of team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, with Citroen's Kris Meeke in third place.

Coffs Harbour's Nathan Quinn also had plenty to celebrate with a fourth placing in the WC2 section, 14th overall, and the top placed Australian driver.

A large contingent of New Zealand spectators also cheered on Kiwi driver Hayden Paddon who placed fifth.

Drivers now head to rallies in France and Spain before November's final in Wales.

Channel Ten will screen highlights from last week's event on Sunday at 2pm.