If there’s one thing that the Australian Rally Championship needs it is a good shot in the arm to make it a truly national contest. Since the withdrawal of most of the major teams and with no replacements on the horizon, you would think that CAMS would be willing to look favourably at any ways of popularising the ailing championship.

Not so, it seems, if their latest decision on rollover protection is anything to go by. Rather than make it easy for classic rally competitors to be a part of a rejuvenated 2010 ARC, and even encourage the participation of New Zealand crews, the opposite appears to be the case.

And it all hinges on CAMS not accepting the New Zealand standard, FIA-approved regulations pertaining to roll cages. In a nutshell, what it means is that CAMS will not accept for competition in Australia cars that run with FIA approval in New Zealand. Yet despite a recommendation to CAMS by its own appointee – the Australian Rally Commission (ARCom) - that the NZ roll cage regulations be accepted - the Board of CAMS have rejected that recommendation.

The result of this is that several Ford Escorts built within the FIA rules in New Zealand and bought by Australian crews with the intention of competing in this year’s ARC, have now been deemed illegal on our shores. Despite protracted negotiations over the issue, CAMS refuses to accept its own adviser’s position on the matter.

Rollover protection can be homologated in one of two ways and each country is free to choose their own method. One of these methods is to comply with the FIA requirements for WRC standards (ie: 44mm seamless tube), while the other is to homologate your own cage, or you may have both.

ARCom, who have been working closely with Darryn Snooks to promulgate the series, wrote a very detailed report to the CAMS Board outlining the reasons why the cars of Ross Dunkerton and Keith Callinan, or any other car built in NZ, should be issued with a CAMS logbook.

ARCom’s recommendation to the CAMS Board at its November meeting was that the Board should approve the request. But the CAMS technical department refused the request, infuriating ARCom, whose job it is advise the Board on these matters.

However, as the minutes of the Board’s meeting are secret (that in itself is one of the reasons why a vote of no confidence in the Board was passed at the December meeting), there is no way of knowing which members either opposed or accepted the recommendation. Further, CAMS’ position is that not only will they not issue these cars with an Australian log book, they will not permit these cars to run on a New Zealand log book either.

So frustrating has the matter become that another Australian who bought a New Zealand car, Victorian Stuart Lawless, removed the roll cage and had a new one built locally, at a cost of around $6000. But until the matter is satisfactorily resolved a meaningful Classic series that permits the use of NZ-log booked cars in Australia seems a long way away.

The question to be asked is – if a car complies with FIA regulations in New Zealand, why then does it not comply in Australia?

In the meantime, and until the matter is satisfactorily resolved, the likelihood of New Zealand crews bringing their cars to Australia and enhancing our proposed Classic championship is as far away as ever.

When you look at the way the Kiwi classic rally scene is steamrolling ahead (think Rally Otago and the Silver Fern Rally), then you must question CAMS’ motives behind all of this.
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