THE Coffs Coast is about to see rapid Russian Evgeny Novikov up close.

The gun young rally driver will be chasing manufacturers’ championship points for the M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team for the first time this season after being selected as one of the British squad’s two nominated drivers for Rally Australia.

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The 20-year-old wasn’t originally due to contest the Coffs Harbour-based round from September 8-11 but will take part in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC and will carry the number six. Experienced Frenchman Denis Giraudet will co-drive.

Malcolm Wilson, who oversees the M-Sport Stobart operation, said Novikov practically picked himself for the role.

“Evgeny has impressed me this season, not just as a driver but also in his maturity,” Wilson said.

“He’s managed to set several top-three stage times on the three rallies he’s competed in this year and has been running third in two of these events.

“As for Australia, Henning Solberg’s attendance was not confirmed until recently, so the decision for Evgeny to be the team’s point-scorer was made based on this.

“However, at the start of the year it was agreed that the nominated point-scorers for M-Sport Stobart would likely change throughout the season, to give all drivers a chance to score points for the team.”

Novikov replaces Mads Ostberg as one of M-Sport Stobart’s two nominated drivers in Australia, venue for round 10 of the 13-event world championship season.

Briton Matthew Wilson will be the team’s other point-scorer.

Ostberg, from Norway, doesn’t have the funding to compete on the Coffs Coast despite a promising start to his 2011 campaign, which began with a second-place finish in Rally Sweden in February.

Solberg, meanwhile, will pilot a third M-Sport Stobart Fiesta in Australia, although the veteran Norwegian won’t be eligible for manufacturers’ points in the car he shares with Austrian co-driver Ilka Minor.

After eight rounds the semi-works M-Sport Stobart Ford squad, which operates from the same base as the Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team in Britain, is third in the manufacturers’ championship with 101 points.

In total 13 World Rally Cars appear on the draft entry list for Rally Australia, including five Citroen DS3 WRCs, one MINI John Cooper Works WRC and eight Ford Fiesta RS WRCs.

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