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Is there a parallel between the V8 Supercars series and the Australian Rally Championship? At first glance it would appear not, but if you take a closer look, the two are similar in concept, but miles apart in success.

Take the cars themselves – in V8 Supercars there are only two brands of vehicle racing – Fords and Holdens. In top-level rallying this year there are really only two manufacturer-supported brands of car competing – Toyota and Ford.

These cars are supposed to represent the type of car you can buy from your local dealer, but close examination of a V8 Supercar reveals that it is nothing more than a racing hybrid that wouldn’t pass a roadworthy in any part of the country. Similarly, Ford’s new Fiesta and Toyota’s Corolla Sportivo or Super 2000 could not be purchased from the showroom floor by the average person.

Both disciplines of the sport – V8 racing and rallying at ARC level, are highly exciting for both the competitors and the spectators.

But that’s where the similarity ends. While V8 racing attracts thousands of spectators and plenty of TV air time, rallying is struggling to get spectator numbers up to an acceptable level, despite rallying being recognized as an extreme sport.

Recent rounds of the Australian Rally Championship have struggled to attract 1500 spectators into the forest stages, yet V8 Supercar meetings regularly draw a minimum of three times that figure. Organisers of the new V8 Supercar round at Hamilton in New Zealand are budgeting for a 115,000 gate when the event kicks off next year.

Whether you are a fan of the V8s or not, you cannot deny that the drawing power of the series is only overshadowed by the professionalism that pervades the series. Yes, V8 racing can be processional, it can be controversial, it can be boring at times, but it never fails to attract fans by the thousands wherever it goes.

Whether you agree with the statement above or not, surely you must agree that rallying has a lot to learn from the V8 Supercars. Potential new teams are beating a path to AVESCO’s doors to be admitted to the series, which indicates that if there was sufficient room to add more teams, the queue would certainly be a long one.

We all know that the promotion of our major rally series has been sadly neglected over the past few years, and there remains a desperate need for the whole profile of rallying to be refocused. As a result, manufacturers and rich privateers are hardly knocking rallying’s doors down to be allowed to compete.

Rallying, unlike V8 Supercars, could never exist with just two manufacturers, and Subaru’s withdrawal and Mitsubishi’s decision not to involve themselves in the ARC this year, has been a major blow to the popularity of the sport. And it seems reasonable to assume that if rallying was run along the same lines as V8 Supercars, the image of rallying would take a major turn for the better.

While V8 Supercar racing, with all its faults and foibles, might be the model to build rallying on, rallying is struggling to build an image and a future for itself. What is needed is a whole lot more passion for rallying – passion from spectators, passion from organizers, passion from competitors, and a passion from the general media who, one day, will tire of seeing 30-odd petrol guzzlers playing follow-the-leader around a track for lap after lap.

Until we generate that passion, rallying will remain hidden from viewers and spectators who are looking at an alternative to circuit racing. Yes, the ARC and the V8s do have many parallels, but in terms of drawing crowds, those parallels cease to exist where it matters most.

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