The future of Tasmania’s round of the Australian Rally Championship, the Octagon-promoted Subaru Safari Tasmania, looks anything but secure, thanks to an almost total lack of support from Tasmanian Rally Series competitors. 
Sponsored for a 3-year term which ends after this year’s rally by Subaru Australia, the southern-most event in the Championship looks like running at a considerable loss and has only attract a field of around 25 crews. 

According to Octagon General Manager, Rob McGuire, the future of the event which has run in Tasmania’s south since the mid-sixties, appears uncertain, mainly due to dwindling entries in its ‘piggy-backed’ event running in conjunction with the ARC.

According to Octagon’s recent media release, a seven-week gap between consecutive TRS rounds, and with the Subaru Safari in between, has resulted in a lack of TRS entries in the 2-day event which would not give competitors sufficient time between events. 

“Including Rallye Burnie, four rallies in a seven week period is too many for the Tasmanian market. Our event is suffering and so, too, will others,” McGuire said. 

Octagon won the organising rights to Subaru Safari Tasmania in November 2004, and while the event was initially supported by the TRS as a piggy-back round of the Tasmanian Rally Championship, organisers of the TRS have since declined to have any involvement this year. “Relying upon the 25 or so entries we receive from the mainland is not enough to make this event commercially viable,” McGuire added.

RallySport Magazine has been told by several leading Tasmanian competitors that the reason for TRS crews not supporting the event was because of their concerns about on-event safety. They also claim that suggested event improvements were put to Octagon by leading TRS competitors but that the company was not prepared to listen to their concerns.

However, according to Octagon’s Tasmanian General Manager, Rob McGuire, there has never been an issue with safety since Octagon took over the event. 

“We were given a clean bill of health from the CAMS observer and the event fulfilled their requirements from a safety point of view. As far as we are aware, this is not an issue,” McGuire said. 

“We have gone out of our way to listen to the TRS competitors and even went as far as appointing Graham Malcolm as the TRS representative to the Octagon committee. In addition we put on a ‘road show’ to take our message to the rally community in three major Tasmanian cities, Hobart, Burnie and Launceston, and to promote TRS competition, but the attendance at those meetings was very poor,” he added.

The 3-year sponsorship deal by Subaru Australia runs out after this year’s rally and seems unlikely to be renewed, leaving the event without a major sponsor should Octagon chose to promote the event in 2007.

The Safari has had a chequered career in the last two years, with long-time Clerk of Course, Brian Richardson, resigning from the post in 2004. The rights to the event were then taken over by Octagon who also run Targa Tasmania. The event suffered a major upheaval when forest authorities denied the organizers access to roads in the traditional Derwent Valley area, resulting in a move by the event to the Southern Forests district.

Octagon have recently been advertising for a replacement for current Tasmanian General Manager, Rob McGuire, who is retiring, however current Clerk of Course, Ken Roddam, will retain responsibility for both Targa Tasmania and Subaru Safari Tasmania. 

Subaru Safari Tasmania this year will feature a new super-special stage at Geevston, 60km south of Hobart, on July 15 &16. The super special has been planned in conjunction with the Huon Valley Council and will feature a specially-designed 400 metre course at the Ossie Kile Reserve, near the Kermanie Oval in Geeveston. 

The new stage will replace the popular stage which has traditionally been held at the Derwent Entertainment Centre. The aim of the new stage is to allow spectators not only to watch the action without having to go into the forests, but to enable them to see the cars being serviced in the adjacent service park. The super special will be used four times during the 2-day rally, with each car doing two laps per run.

In what must be the most depleted entry list for an Australian Championship round in recent times, just 23 entries have been received for the Subaru Safari Tasmania, just four of whom are entered for the Manufacturer’s Award for the ARC. Toyota Racing Developments have cars for Simon Evans/Sue Evans and Neil Bates/Coral Taylor while Mitsubishi have a lone Lancer for Scott Pedder/Glen Weston. 

The only remaining factory entry is the Ford Focus of Michael Guest/Mark Stacey who have drawn tenth starting position. Privateer entries start with Dean Herridge/Bill Hayes at number four, follwed by Darren Windus, Jack Monkhouse, Will Orders, Martin Lintott and Stewart Reid. 

The only all-Tasmanian crew chasing ARC points is Simon Jansen/Elysia Kruper (Mitsubishi Evo 3), while just two other Tasmania crews, Craig Sault/Fiona Mackie (Commodore) and James Wilson,Daniel Wilson (Charade) make up the field.

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