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COMMENT: Mixed surface state championships – rallying’s latest hot topic

Brett Middleton Mt Buller Sprint
Tarmac rallies can attract big crowds and provide unique stage locations. Photo: Peter Whitten

There’s some spirited debate going on across social media at present over the idea of running a tarmac rally as a round of the Victorian Rally Championship in 2019.

The question was posed by current director, Craig Jarvie, and has seen some interesting comment from those in favour, and those against.

It raises some interesting questions in the for and against columns, the majority of whom don’t seem to favour the idea.

Tarmac rallying has a legitimate place in Australian rallying, as proven by over 20 years of Targa Tasmanias, but does a tarmac rally have a place in a state championship?

Tough question.

The World Rally Championship includes several exciting tarmac rallies. Photo: Maurice Selden

Perhaps the number one deterrent could be that we don’t currently have a tarmac round of the Australian Rally Championship.

If a tarmac state round is to have any relevance, should it be as a stepping stone to those wanting to move up to the highest level of the sport? And if there isn’t such a round, is there really a point?

Aside from the the huge extra workload in the closing of public tarmac roads (in this case through VicRoads), there’s also the extra costs to competitors.

Moving from a gravel event to a tarmac rally is not simply a matter of changing tyres. There’s suspension heights to think of, brake parts, and the extra wear and tear on driveline components.

But is that enough to kibosh the idea totally? Absolutely not.

The Australian Rally Championship includes occasional tarmac stages, mainly aimed at spectators. Photo: Peter Whitten

A mixed championship works in many, many countries, and just because it’s not the done thing in Australia now, doesn’t mean it can’t be in the future.

The pull of tarmac rallying through state championship events could easily bring some of the Targa regulars across to the series, and that in turn could see them contesting gravel events in future. And vice versa.

There’s also the possibility that car manufacturers and sponsors currently not involved in the championship could see this as a way of becoming involved. The end result would be more competitors and more money on the table.

The majority of people believe Australian state rounds should be held on gravel only. Photo: Peter Whitten

Die-hards of gravel rallying may be quick to dismiss the idea as a waste of time, but others will no doubt see it as a real opportunity, and perhaps a way forward for the sport.

Your opinion may not be the same as someone else’s, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

We aren’t all going to agree one way or the other, but the discussion makes for healthy debate that, in the end, should be good for the sport of rallying as a whole.

Related news:

COMMENT: New rules from CAMS ensures safety is number one


Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media.


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