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Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding the Australian Rally Championship in the past fortnight, there are reasons for optimism, with plenty of work going on behind the scenes to resurrect the much maligned series.

While a shock, Toyota’s withdrawal from the ARC is being seen by many as a new dawn for the championship – the downturn that had to happen, if you like.

Privateers have long complained at their lack of media and television coverage in the ARC, particularly in 2008 with only one manufacturer in the series. Many saw last year’s TV coverage as simply an infomercial for Toyota, and sponsors of privateers were equally unimpressed.

“From the seven hours of TV coverage last year, our team only got 45 seconds of airtime,” one leading ARC privateer said this week. “As a result, we lost a six figure major sponsor, simply because they didn’t receive the coverage we thought we could offer them.”

Since the announcement that Toyota were withdrawing from the sport, much work has already been undertaken by Rallycorp and leading privateers in order to try and turn the championship around.

“I see no reason why the ARC can’t return to its glory days,” the privateer said. “While 2009 might be the low point, the ARC will survive and the rebuilding phase is now underway.”

Privateers who contribute as little as $10,000 to the TV fund will be guaranteed coverage on every program of the ARC in 2009.

Rather than asking manufacturers to enter a team in the championship, ideas are being put forward to seek manufacturer support, or sponsorship, of the championship, with the money to be used for the promotion of the ARC, the support of privateers, and vastly improved media coverage – both on the internet and in print form.

Format changes for the 2010 ARC are also being mooted, with many ideas being considered, including single day events to cut back on the time away from work for competitors, crews and officials.

While those with negative thoughts may see 2009 as the year the ARC went backwards, there are already plans afoot to ensure that this year is the beginning of a new era. The ARC will continue, and with some smart minds and key business people steering the ship (albeit from behind the scenes), the future is looking brighter than it may at first appear.
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