Western Australia's Forest Rally is a vital cog of the Australian Rally Championship according to long-time event director Ross Tapper, and he has the figures to back it up. Tapper has been compiling figures on the event's entry numbers since 1986, concentrating specifically on the number of interstate entries the rally receives each year. Those numbers show that, on average, there have been 12.66 interstate competitors contesting the rally in that time. That represents over 22% of the average field of 56.69 vehicles. After a disappointing 2014, when only six crews headed across the Nullabor, the past five years have seen impressive interstate numbers of 14, 10, 10, 12 and 10.

Forest Rally stalwart Ross Tapper.

"My view is, if the ARC is in a good position in WA, then by default it has to be better elsewhere in the country where there are more competitors," Tapper said. "Hopefully we are heading into a period where the ARC is the pinnacle of rallying, and the cars from the past are treasured by all and we love to see them compete.
"But we need the pointy end to be the best current cars that are possible."
Tapper added that 2019 wasn't a great year for the Forest Rally in terms of WA competitors, with only 37 locals fronting the start. "We are going through a bit of a lull in numbers in all events, but I am sure it will pick up again." There has long been discussion as to whether WA should be the first round of the national championship, given that it is 4000km from the east coast. The figures seem to indicate that it has no real influence on interstate competitor numbers. "For many years we have been round 1 or 2, it doesn’t make much difference either way," he said. "I think if we were the final round, a number would drop off from coming over.
"WA weather is such that we are either in a fire risk or it is too wet to run on the clay surface in the pine plantations, so running April / May works for us."
The next round of the Australian Rally Championship is Victoria's Eureka Rally on the last weekend in August, where Harry Bates will aim to continue his domination. The rally is also a round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, with Hayden Paddon set to drive a Hyundai i20 R5 in his first Victorian rally.
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