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There’s an old saying that any publicity is good publicity and with the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix just over, that event certainly generated plenty of publicity, both good and bad.



Depending on which side of the fence you’re on, Melbourne’s F1 event is either the best thing to happen to Australia’s most southern mainland state or a huge waste of taxpayer’s money. The event has continued to polarize the Melbourne community, many of whom are vehemently opposed to the event which seems to run at an increasingly-large loss every year. And with total losses on the event now exceeding $47 million, the critics are unlikely to be silenced by the revelation that Victorian taxpayers are now to foot the bill for BMW’s withdrawal of sponsorship, to the tune of $1.8 million, of the Celebrity race.

At the same time as the event is being criticized for its “top end of town” spending, some Australian F1 executives are accepting huge bonuses over and above their already-generous salaries. It would seem that the old practice of rewarding an employee for their work in increasing profits rather than the other way around, no longer necessarily applies. The whole range of issues concerning the returns to Australia, and particularly Victoria, as a result of the Grand Prix being in town, are being scrutinized not only by those opposed to the race, but by the event’s fans as well.

What has all this to do with rallying? If you believe that any publicity is good publicity, regardless of how critical or damaging that publicity might be, then the Australian F1 Grand Prix publicity could be just what rallying needs. If it does nothing else other than to get rallying into the media, then perhaps rallying needs a few controversial issues to ensure that it gets noticed.

As we all know, it takes a death or a serious accident to ensure rally coverage in the media – even the demise of Rally Australia in Western Australia saw scant column-centimetres in the major daily newspapers, but Peter Brock’s death during a Western Australian rally guaranteed widespread media interest – not because it was a rally accident but because it caused the death of a well-know motor racing figure. Would the coverage have been as great if it involved a well-known rally driver being killed  in a circuit race? You can make up your own mind on that one.

The point I’m trying to make is that any sort of motor racing publicity seems to be pretty much guaranteed whether it be Marcos Ambrose’ career in the USA, the Mark Skaife V8 Supercars licence debacle in Australia or the F1 Grand Prix’s financial situation. With the possible exception of Chris Atkinson and Glenn Macneall’s WRC performances, rallying, as ever, takes a back seat. Rallying, it seems, is unworthy of publicity. As an example, our own Chris and Glenn were as high as second outright in the Rally Mexico – had this been a motor race instead of a rally, the media would have gone ape #@$ over the story rather than just giving it a mention in passing.

With the first round of the Australian Rally Championship now just days away, only the most fanatical rally fan would realize that the season is about to get under way. The media have naturally chosen to give it the same sort of treatment reserved for the Woop Woop Under 13’s footy team. Forget that Ford are embarking on a full-on 2-car assault on the Championship in a brand new car, or that Toyota are debuting a new S2000 car – nothing less than a full-blown scandal or a media beat-up can get rallying into the media. So perhaps we need to generate our own – I can just see the headlines – “Democrats leader Ed Ordynski admits having lunch with disgraced WA Premier and Rally Australia supremo Brian Burke.” Wouldn’t the media frenzy generated by that be wonderful!

But who do we really have to blame? We can sit here all day and type out sad stories about how the media owes us big-time, but the bottom line is that we have no-one to blame but ourselves. We deserve every bit of failed publicity that we miss out on and, with very few exceptions, do nothing to help ourselves. Here at RallySportmag we’ve been harping on the same string for the past 18 years with little result.

Perhaps we really do need a full-blown controversy to make the media sit up and take notice of us, or, perish the thought, fabricate one of our own to start a revolution. It’s a sad indictment of our sport that we need to go to these lengths to promote our cause and our sport. Just as certainly as we are all faced with death or taxes, I have no doubt that we’ll be writing these same words around the same time next year. And that’s a real shame – racing’s gain is rallying’s loss.


RALLY STORIES WE’D LIKE TO SEE
Sometimes bad news is better than no news, particularly where rallying’s concerned – at least bad news would give rallying some prominence in the media from time to time.
The following examples are just a figment of our imagination, the names and stories pure fiction.

EVANS CEMENTS 2007 SEASON
Melbourne-based concreter, Simon Evans, has cemented his place in the history books by negotiating this year’s rally contract with Toyota on his mobile phone while standing knee-deep in rapid set concrete. Answering a phone call from Toyota Racing Developments while in the midst of a concrete pour, the Victorian hot-shot failed to realize the concrete was going off until the phone conversation ended some 35 minute later. After being cut out of his gumboots by the local State Emergency Service, the 26 year-old vowed never to stand in wet cement again. “That does it,” Evans said. “That’s the closet the opposition will ever get in giving me a pair of concrete shoes.”

GUEST GOES OFF-SHORE WITH FIESTA
Unable to do any pre-event testing in his new Ford Fiesta S2000 due to Australia’s continuing drought, Ford works driver, Michael Guest, was carpeted by Ford management after allegedly removing the engine from his Fiesta and installing it in his fishing boat. According to an unidentified source, Guest removed the engine from the car at the Newcastle slipway without Ford’s authority, slipping the engine into his 14 foot tinny and heading out for a day’s testing.  “I was so impressed with the horsepower figures that we got from a recent dyno test that I thought the engine would make a huge difference to my tinny, and it did,” he said.



TASMANIAN UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR “SHADY DEALS”
One of Tasmania’s richest transport operators, Les Walkden, is under investigation by the Australian consumer watchdog, the ACCC, for making a take-over bid for the entire state of Tasmania. The proposed deal, believed to be worth just $1,500 would, if approved by the Tasmanian Government, give Walkden complete control of the island state and allow him to proceed with his plan to tow the island across Bass Strait to enable Targa Tasmania to be run in Victoria and therefore not pose a threat to Rallye Burnie and Rally Tasmania. Parliament was in turmoil yesterday after allegations over Walkden’s involvement in the plan and resulted in one sitting member, Adrian Morrisby, being removed from the front bench after a fiery exchange with the opposition.

MIDDLETON ON MURDER CHARGE
Police were called to a Sydney garage yesterday after neighbours reported a violent heated exchange between the garage owner and the driver of a Datsun 120Y. Upon arrival at the premises, police arrested a Sydney man, Brett Middleton, alleging that he murdered a new gearbox that had recently been reconditioned. A ccording to an eye witness, the man charged was heard to drive away from the garage in the early hours of the morning with the car making excruciating noises as the driver tried to change gear. “I couldn’t believe that he was trying to murder the gearbox like that,” the eyewitness said. “And in broad daylight and with young children in the street,” he added.
Police expect charges to be laid.

MINISTER NAMES BATES AS CANBERRA ARSONIST
Canberra Tourism Minister, Bernie Blaze, has laid the blame for this summer’s disastrous Canberra fires on Toyota Rallying boss, Neal Bates. In an out-of-sessions court hearing last Sunday, Bates was bailed to appear at Queanbeyan court next Monday to answer charges over the cause of the fire. Speaking after the court appearance, the outspoken Mr Blaze alleged that Bates’ Corolla backfired in Greenhills plantation, setting fire to trees which killed an entire block. However Bates denies the allegations, claiming that the vehicle was not his, but one of the hundreds of Canberra’s works-replica Corolla Sportivos that are a familiar sight on the ACT’s roads.

 

GREENS BACK PLAN TO USE CORDIAL FUEL
Tasmanian Senator Bob Brawn yesterday received the full support of the Greens after introducing a revamped bill in parliament which will require all vehicles involved in rallying to convert to cordial-based fuel by the year 2010. There was much opposition to the original draft of the bill but it appears that this has now been overcome after specific changes, including the color ‘red’ being specified, be approved, and is now expected to pass through both houses of parliament during the extended (June 1 – 2) Winter sitting of parliament. One other additional requirement approved was that CAMS were to be the fuel monitoring authority. A spokesperson from CAMS said that they were unhappy with the decision which will require them to purchase a cordial-testing device for use in all Australian rallies, but were nevertheless keen to see non-petroleum based fuels introduced into the sport. It is expected that CAMS will use the new requirement as a chance to require competitors to accept red cordial as the preferred control fuel from January 1, 2010.

LEADING CO-DRIVER INJURED IN CRUSH
One of Australia’s leading female competitors, Coral Taylor, was under sedation last night after being caught in a frenzied stampede at Parramatta’s Target store. While her injuries are non-life threatening, Taylor expects to be restricted to light duties for several weeks. Still too ill to be interviewed, 30 year-old Taylor was reportedly shopping in the clothing department when a crowd estimated at 12,000 people, mostly teenagers looking for new Stella McCartney gear, burst through the front door, knocking her over and trampling her underfoot. Police have decided not to lay charges but are still waiting to interview the victim.

MAN LIVING IN SQUALID RALLY CAR NEAR POVERTY LINE
The report in yesterday’s Unfinancial Times where a 25 year old Queenslander was forced to live in his rally car after having his home repossessed, has drawn a strong reaction from welfare authorities in the area. It was reported that the man, a keen rally competitor, was forced to relinquish his home after being unable to meet his house repayments after all his spare money went on rallying, forcing his wife and five children onto the streets while the man slept in his Datsun 1600 rally car. According to the man, who it is believed had a rallying addiction, the cost of  rallying had spiralled to such an extent that he had no alternative than to take the action that he did. “I hate to admit it, but I would rather sacrifice my house than my Datto because rallying means so much to me. I’m sure that Centrelink will look after my family,” he said.


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