A spark of life left in rallying
- 12th September 2008, 1:54pm
Firstly, the announcement last week that Rally Queensland next year will also host a round of the Asia-Pacific Championship, while unexpected, will provide a boost for rallying in Queensland, as well as hopefully gee-ing up some more interest in the ailing APRC, which seems incapable of attracting any sort of worthwhile interest.
Despite attempts to promote it as a suitable alternative to the World Rally Championship, it has traditionally been supported mainly by Japanese, Indonesian, Malaysian and (occasionally) Chinese competitors only, and, in Australia at least, gets scant media coverage despite Cody Crocker being the man to beat at most events.
The news that Rally Queensland is taking the APRC round on board augers well for the sport, and no doubt RQ organisers are hoping that Asian crews will see the value of competing here against the best drivers that Australia can muster. Unfortunately, as recent ARC rounds have shown, the number of top-level Australian crews prepared to commit to a full ARC program, let alone an APRC one, is diminishing each year.
Secondly, there was the long-awaited announcement that Repco Rally Australia would be based at Kyogle in northern NSW, surely the worst-kept secret in rallying. This week’s announcement provoked a sigh of relief from many in the sport who, like most of us, have been patiently waiting for the news.
With World Championship rallying now firmly back on the agenda in Australia, there should be some worthwhile spin-off for rallying in general. The added bonus is that Rally Australia will now be run in a heavily populated part of the country, something that was always a problem when it was conducted in its original home, Western Australia.
Make no mistake, rallying over the last decade has been at an all-time low since the excitement of the 1980s. The withdrawal of Mitsubishi, Ford and Subaru from our national championship has had a devastating effect on ARC fields, both factory-supported competitors and privateers. And while there are pockets of enthusiasm at State Championship level, we must now harness this enthusiasm and get rallying back on the right track.
The time is ripe to take advantage of the excitement of rallying at all levels, but spreading the rallying message won’t come easy. The lack of media publicity across the board is a disgrace, given rallying’s high profile overseas, and ARCom need to look closely at their performance in keeping the rallying pot on the boil. It must not be left solely to the State rally panels to spread the word – it’s a national challenge that all of us can contribute to if we’re serious about the future of the sport.
Rallying does have a future in these difficult times, despite the burden of rising costs and spiralling fuel prices. We just need to be able to harness the beast so that it at least achieves some sort of status quo. The two announcements mentioned above will hopefully go some way towards establishing a resurgence of interest in the sport.
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