COMMENT: No winners in Rally Tasmania podium debacle
The judicial process after Rally Tasmania that saw Eli Evans penalised and demoted from first to third place, and then reinstated as the rally winner, was handled incredibly badly by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS).
The Australian Rally Championship (ARC) has made big steps forward over the past 18 months as the championship has stepped up a level in many areas, but the way in which this incident was handled bordered on comical, except it was much more serious than that.
The official ‘statements’ released by the championship media team – when the penalty was applied, and after it was overturned – said nothing about what had happened, nor why things had suddenly changed.
In an age when social media is king, this not only encouraged speculation that quickly festered and grew like a disease, but suddenly saw conspiracy theories being developed that were not even close to the truth.
Suddenly, and through none of her own doing, Molly Taylor was brought into the situation, with keyboard warriors quick to mount an anti-Subaru campaign, claiming that the manufacturer had instigated the whole affair.
But a protest was never lodged, and any actions taken by the event organisers or the CAMS stewards, were of their own instigation.
Yes, Molly Taylor nearly hit a 4WD vehicle head-on in the stage in question – a vehicle that was alleged to have been towing Eli Evans’ Skoda back onto the stage – but that was her only involvement in the incident.
Onboard footage from the stage was taken from her car, and later played at a quickly arranged hearing before the podium presentation. Taylor was nothing more than an innocent ‘passer by’.
Regardless of the results, and who was right and who was wrong, the handling of it was totally botched, and created unnecessary confusion and angst at a podium finish that should have been a celebration of a fantastic rally.
In the 2000s, an inquiry, a penalty and a return to the original results may have been able to be kept quiet until everything was done and dusted. CAMS probably would have been able to control the story as it wished.
But this is 2018 and we’re in the social media age – a time when rumours and innuendo gather momentum faster than Ott Tanak on a Rally Finland power stage.
At the end of day, the fastest driver in the fastest car won Rally Tasmania. Whether that outcome is within the regulations is for the championship regulators to adjudicate on.
In the meantime, however, Eli Evans and Molly Taylor, and their respective co-drivers and teams, weren’t able to celebrate their successes in the appropriate manner.
That, and the damage it has done to the ARC brand, is what’s most disappointing.