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Rally Australia will be based in Coffs Harbour moving forward, at least if the NSW Government has anything to do with it. Under threat from the WRC Promoter because of a lack of population base in the region, the event has run out of the mid-north coast NSW city since 2011. RallySport Magazine understands that the state government is only interested in putting money into the event if it is centred around Coffs Harbour, as other major centres already have high profile motorsport events being held. Newcastle, south of Coffs, holds the annual Supercars finale, while Bathurst hosts a number of major motorsport events throughout the year.
Whether Australia still has a round of the WRC in 2020 remains to be seen, however.
Until the WRC release their calendar - expected within the next couple of months - not even Rally Australia organisers know their fate. Reports that New Zealand will host the WRC, at Australia's expense, next year are still unconfirmed, although momentum seems to be gathering. If reports are to be believed, the Kiwis would have only a one-off event, with the rally moving back to Australia in 2021 - but to a different location if the WRC promoter has its way.

Large crowds attended the start of Rally Australia on the Coffs Harbour foreshore last year. Photo: Peter Whitten

Government support for Rally Australia in Coffs Harbour has always been strong. National Party state member, Andrew Fraser, was a self-confessed rally nut, and his successor, former blueberry farmer Gurmesh Singh, has also thrown his support behind the rally. Fraser is now a Rally Australia board member. Yet none of that may matter if the WRC promoter waves its wand.
The championship's endless hunt for more spectators is an interesting one, and in many ways seems to go against their current media model.
They may want thousands of fans on the stages to make the vision look good, but at present a key source of income is annual subscriptions to their WRC All Live service. Those of us sitting in our lounge rooms watching live stages from Monte Carlo, Portugal or Finland couldn't really care if the stages are lined with spectators or not, so should the WRC? Sure, it looks good, but it's probably not the deal breaker they make it out to be.

Sebastien Ogier in full attack mode at Rally Australia in 2018. Photo: Luke Whitten

Similarly, the endless chat about New Zealand not hosting a round of the WRC because they don't sell enough cars is surely one of the greatest beat ups going around. It's true, New Zealand doesn't sell as many cars as Australia, Japan or China, but do the manufacturers really care?
It could be argued that images of their products on New Zealand's scintillating gravel roads, with jaw-dropping backdrops, will do more for their worldwide promotion than selling a few more cars down under will ever do.
All of which is scuttlebutt and hearsay for now though, until the WRC Promoter unveils the 2020 calendar. While those close to the event aren't 100% certain everything will be the same in 2020, they also weren't sure New Zealand had everything in place - and most importantly, the funding - to take the event for a single year. Would a government want to put millions of dollars into a one-off event if there was no chance of it coming back again? Maybe, probably not. Which, of course, opens another can of worms. Is a one-year deal all that's on offer to New Zealand, or could there be more to the story than even the rumours are suggesting?

More WRC news:

https://rallysportmag.com/nzs-wrc-chances-firming-according-to-rally-chairman/ https://rallysportmag.com/nz-could-host-2020-wrc-round-at-australias-expense/
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