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This year’s Rallye Burnie tarmac rally, which for the first time will be run under the ownership of Tasmanian rallying stalwart Les Walkden, is almost certain to be attended by members of Rallycorp, the commercial rights holders for the Australian Rally Championship.

Whether the event will be officially ‘observed’ as a potential round of the ARC in the future remains to be seen, but it raises some interesting points about the future of the ARC and what, and how many, events will form it in the future.

Yesterday’s announcement that the World Rally Championship is soon to be scaled back from 16 events to 12 might be just what the doctor ordered to encourage more manufacturers into the WRC, but perhaps the opposite applies in Australia.

There has been a widening view for quite some time that the ARC needs more rallies, if for no other reason than to build some continuity between the championship and the media.

Rallycorp, love them or loathe them, put a tremendous amount of work into organising the ARC, yet the sporadic nature of the championship means that any momentum built up during a rally is soon lost once the champagne has been sprayed.

It is now four weeks since the Rally of Canberra was run and won, yet there is still another six weeks until the Rally of South Australia. In that 10 week period there will probably have been 11 V8 Supercar rounds and 27 Formula 1 races, which the media will have lapped up.

Understandably, even in the four weeks since the Canberra round, Ford and Toyota have gone quiet. There has been no news publicly released about what changes or improvements they’ve made to their cars in that time and, unless the dedicated journalists around the country have been on the phone asking questions, no stories have appeared in the press.

Surely this is exactly what Rallycorp don’t want to happen. In order to encourage more sponsors into rallying (at both a commercial and competitor level) there needs to be continual stream of information about the championship, the drivers, the events, and anything else related to the sport. Only when this sort of continuity is established will the general media pick up rallying and run with it on a regular basis.

So now is the time for more events to be added to the ARC calendar. Just by adding an extra two events will help the coverage of the sport no-end. Whether the events be tarmac or gravel is, for all intents and purposes, beside the point. The sport needs to grow, and offering manufacturers more events for publicity and promotion would be a step in the right direction.

Ford have reportedly spent nearly half a million dollars designing and building their new Super 2000 Fiestas. Yet under the current championship they only get to showcase their car six times a year. Despite there being a trend toward smaller cars rather than the bigger six and eight cylinder Falcons, it doesn’t take Einstein to figure out that Ford would be getting substantially more return for their V8 Supercar involvement.

Saturation media coverage is not always a good thing, as Channel 7 are perhaps discovering with their V8 Supercar coverage this year, but it is a lot more preferential than a lack of coverage.

Now is the time for Rallycorp to bite the bullet and increase the size of the Australian Rally Championship. There are enough high-quality events around the country to make this an easy process, and by adding another ARC round to high population states like New South Wales and Victoria can only be good for the future of the sport.

Future is the key word here. If the ARC remains stagnant and as protracted as it currently is, then our national championship’s future may be bleak, rather than rosy.

- Peter Whitten

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