The Australian Rally Championship's toe-in-the-water trial of one-day rounds of the series was largely successful at last weekend's National Capital Rally. The Canberra round was the first of two one-day rallies this year, with Victoria's Eureka Rally in August the other. On the whole, it seemed to work pretty well, although I must admit that it was a strange feeling travelling to a round of a national championship, knowing that it would be all over in a few short hours. The ARC had decided that the one-day rally would still be over two heats - the first over four stages in the morning, with the second heat over the same tests in the afternoon. While it proved a good format, and ensured that drivers needed to be on the limit from the very first kilometre if they wanted to achieve a good result, it did bring up an issue that proved frustrating (and costly) for some competitors. The short turnaround between heat one and heat two would ultimately mean that two of the event's drawcard entries – Toyota's Lewis Bates, and Shamrock Motorsport's Richie Dalton – were sideline for heat two. There were probably others too.
There was only a 30 minute service at the lunch break between the heats which, it turned out, wasn't nearly long enough for some.
Dalton's car suffered a fuel pressure sensor failure on SS3 and was left stranded in the stage. With stage four starting just 400 metres after SS3 finished, and no access roads leading off, there was no chance for the team to recover the car in time to get it back to service to fix the problem. Frustratingly, the problem took only five minutes to fix, but Dalton's now perfectly healthy car was out of the rally. Similarly, Lewis Bates had a light roll that caused mostly cosmetic damage. The radiator had been holed, but had the Toyota team been able to get the car back to service, he would most likely have been a starter in the afternoon.
Teething problems will surface in any new format or trial period, and this was surely one of them, but it is not such an easy fix.
Increasing the service time would have meant starting the rally earlier, which necessitates control officials being out in the forest an hour earlier as well. It also pushes the finish back, and with the autumn days shortening as winter approaches, this can also cause problems.

Spectators may feel short changes from a single day ARC round. Photo: Matt Whitten

But it's not a lost cause. Most competitors RallySport Magazine spoke to seemed enthusiastic about the one-day trial, and given a few tweaks here and there, it can work well in the future. From a publicity point of view, it throws up a few curveballs. Getting to enough locations for photographers and cameramen to get enough footage is a concern, as is the limited opportunities for spectators. Enticing rally fans to travel long distances for a one-day event will prove hard to master, resulting in less tourism revenue for the areas the rally travels through, and less spectators on the stages watching the action.
The ARC needs to be given credit for trying new things though. If the new format works, fantastic. If it doesn't, then it's more than likely back to the tried and tested format.
As for me, it was a weird feeling being back home again (after a five hour drive) by 9pm on a Saturday night, still having a full day of the weekend to go. Did I enjoy the one-day format? My jury's still out. I think for my mind, the two-day rallies are better, offering more variety and the chance to bring reliability and endurance into play. But for the competitors who want shorter rallies and less time away from home, I can see the advantages. Let's wait and see the future holds.

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