EDITORIAL: CAMS vs AASA – rallying at the crossroads
- 18th January 2008, 1:50pm
January 2008 seems to be no different, with many changes to the sport being planned, and new people involved at all levels of rallying around the country.
Without doubt the biggest topic of conversation at the moment is the introduction of the new AASA Australian Rally Championship that was launched just before Christmas. A five-round series down the east coast of Australia, the series is generating tremendous interest within the sport.
The AASA have stated that their championship is not in direct competition to the traditional Australian Rally Championship (ARC) because it is more about providing competitors with an alternative, and that directors will be free to run their events how they see fit, rather than having to comply with set-in-stone regulations that apply to the CAMS-sanctioned ARC.
But regardless of all that, it has already taken the interest of many manufacturers, and it is expected to be very popular right from the outset.
In response, the Australian Rally Commission (ARCom) originally “poo pooed” the idea in a frantic press release published just before Christmas. "I think the timing is a bit of cheeky festive season merry-making by the AASA,” new ARCom Chairman, Col Trinder, said in an official statement.
Nothing could have been further from the truth, and the realisation that the series will go ahead has undoubtedly ruffled a few feathers at CAMS head office in Melbourne.
Since that time, ARCom have announced their 2008 committee, with a broad range of talented, respected and experienced people to drive them into the future. And while this is all well and good for ARCom, there lies a much more worrying issue lurking just below the surface.
By providing an alternative insurance and permit scheme to CAMS, the Australian Auto Sport Alliance (AASA) have quickly taken business from CAMS at a rate never before seen. Events from all disciplines of motorsport have been making the change to AASA, which offers, many believe, a simpler system to CAMS.
In 2007 the trend continued with many rally-based car clubs making the switch from CAMS to AASA. Rather than a cost issue, most clubs made the change because of the ease in getting events off the ground, without having to go through the rigmarole of the universally disliked CAMS National Officiating Program.
Most clubs tried AASA as a toe-in-the-water exercise in 2007, running events such as motorkhanas and khanacrosses under the AASA banner. Almost all reported that it was much easier, and that they would run more events outside CAMS in 2008.
One of those clubs is believed to be the Victorian Historic Rally Association (HRA). It is understood that the HRA, who run more rallies in Victoria than any other club, will get all their permits through AASA this year, continuing the mass exodus from CAMS. Many other clubs are also likely to follow suit.
First and foremost, this puts a major financial strain on CAMS. Already reeling from the loss of Rally Australia (which reportedly was worth $350,000 in permit fees to CAMS) and the departure of many other high profile events, CAMS now faces the future with uncertainty as clubs continue to leave them high and dry.
Already the drop in business has seen them reshuffling their resources and closing down some state offices, and things don’t look likely to improve for them any time soon.
But their rallying problems lie deeper still. The Australian Rally Commission list their primary task as “to manage and guide rallying in a manner that is in the national interest”.
However, the problem is that ARCom is a CAMS-sanctioned organisation that reports to the CAMS board. If the majority of rallies in Australia (or even a percentage of them) make the switch to AASA, then the rules and regulations set in place by ARCom have no bearing.
In other words, unless there is a major turnaround, ARCom will have nothing to administer.
Events that run under the AASA banner will be free to run whatever rules they see fit, and while that may not be an ideal situation for rallying, many see it as being a lot better than the current situation, under ARCom and CAMS.
It would be easy to talk about the pros and cons of CAMS and the AASA for hours as has already been happening around the country – but none of that is really doing the sport any good. It appears we need to come to the understanding that both CAMS and the AASA will be sanctioning rallies from 2008 onwards, and in a democratic country, that’s not such a bad thing.
What is a concern, however, is that the sport may lose its structure, with different clubs running different rules, different classes of cars, and with different visions and goals. In a sport that is already difficult for the average punter to understand, that’s a big worry.
From an outsider’s point of view, and from someone with no allegiance to either CAMS or the AASA, it appears the sooner the sport gets its house in order, the better.
ARCom might be the best organisation to move the sport forward, and it might currently have some of the best qualified people to do that – but not while they report to CAMS. It is high time that Australian rallying had a stand-alone body that controlled the sport, and left it up to the clubs to decide who they get their permits from.
Then, and only then, will the bickering stop and will the sport be able to move forward.
CAMS may have governed the sport of rallying in Australia for the past 50 years, but that doesn’t mean they have to do it for the next 50. The sooner we take a united stand and think about the long-term future of the sport, the better off we’ll be.
Let’s be grateful of what CAMS have done for rallying over the years, but let’s also accept that we now have a choice, and that the AASA will be around for many years to come.
At the end of the day, we’ve all got the best interests of rallying at heart, and we all want to see it prosper. Let’s just get on with it!
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