THE COATES Hire Rally Australia is still 38 days away but preparations are well in swing for the Coffs Coast.
Australian driver Chris Atkinson, who hails from the south coast town of Bega, will fly the flag at the World Rally Championship event, which will attract the best drivers in the world from September 11.
Atkinson travels to Europe today for testing, but it's on the Big Banana that his sights are set.
"We'd test the cars here, but we're just not allowed," Atkinson said.
"I'm not sure where at the moment, but we could be going to either France, Spain or Portugal. The challenge is we have to find somewhere the roads are similar to what to expect."
Atkinson is further disadvantaged as he has never driven the Coffs circuit before, and can't sneak a peek at the track before the event begins.
"That's the equivalent of doping in other sports," Atkinson said.
"You're not allowed to look at a track or a course beforehand as it gives you an unfair advantage over the rest of the competition."
Instead, he will have to rely on months of driving and testing to ensure the vehicle is ready to race, but local knowledge could also play its part.
"I've never raced at Coffs before though I know how Australian roads feel and are designed so I can use that to my advantage," Atkinson said.