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There can be little doubt that Ed Ordynski is one of Australian rallying’s most recognizable faces. The likeable South Australian former school teacher has been at the forefront of Australian rallying since his first major victory – winning the South Australian Rally Championship in a Subaru RX Turbo in 1986.


Along the way he has picked up numerous other significant victories which included not only being crowned Australian Rally Champion in 1990, the winner of the 1995 Mobil 1 Round Australia Trial, and the first Group N driver in Rally New Zealand, but an eight-time winner of the Group N class at Rally Australia.

In his 20-year career at the top level of rallying, the 51-year old has always been firmly committed to the sport in which he has excelled. This commitment to a sport which has been so good to him, will now be taken one step further – having recently been appointed (from January 2007) as the new Chairman of the Australian Rally Commission.

However, although taking the reigns of that pivotal role is still some months away, Ordynski has already hit the deck running and is hell-bent on learning as much as possible about his new role, a role that will offer many challenges as he tries to revive rallying’s current depressed state.

Ordynski told RallySport Magazine in this exclusive interview shortly after his appointmant was announced, that he sees his task as being one of his greatest challenges to date. But the appointment is not just about one aspect of Australian rallying, or about ‘saving’ the ARC as one recent article in a weekly motorsport magazine suggested was his responsibility, but about the whole gamut of rallying in Australia.

He acknowledges he has big shoes to step into as ARCom chairman, but intends to give it his utmost, even so far as devoting a whole year, full time and with no remuneration, as its figurehead.

There is little doubt that Ed Ordynski will breathe some fresh air into the position, as well as approaching the task with a new perspective. We wish him well in his endeavours.

RSM:
Top level Australian rallying has gone from what we believed was the best national championship in the world to something significantly less than that. To what do you attribute the current depressed state of the ARC?

Ed:

I don’t have much to say about the Australian Rally Championship because it certainly is not the role of the Chairman of ARCom to run the ARC.  It is hard to actually define who does run the ARC – I would guess in reality it’s the individual event promoters but honestly, I don’t know how it all actually works.  I think you would have to say decisions are made by Rallycorp (the commercial rights holder), the ARC Working Group and the ARC Marketing Group, with ARCom responsible for the sporting regulations on behalf of CAMS.  
I don’t want to discuss the ARC because there’s already a perception out there that I will be responsible for it. I am very disappointed that a recent feature article in Auto Action about my appointment was basically, “Can Ed save the ARC?”  Nowhere in my position is there any expectation or request to do anything with the ARC – I can’t even find any reference to the ARC itself in the ARCom terms of reference.  
Personally I agree with what Subaru’s Nick Senior used to say – we have a six event championship when what we need is a Championship with six events. I think rallying at all levels, including WRC, has lost touch with what makes rallying special and different from other forms of motorsport.  Rallying is about tough conditions, wild driving, endurance and  travelling to many different places.  
Having identical rallies in capital cities with less than an hour’s driving each day somehow doesn’t fit with that. But maybe that’s just my thoughts as an older competitor.

RSM:
There are several areas where the ARC continues to fail to promote other important categories – areas such as the Privateers Cup, F16, Subaru Challenge, the Aussie Car class, classics and so on. Wouldn’t the sport benefit from more promotion of these categories?

Ed:
I have already put my hand up to handle Classic cars for 2007 as my portfolio on ARCom.  I think many people, over a long time, have tried to get Classic cars happening properly in Australia, most notably John Hills, Ross and Lisa Dunkerton and Gerald Schofield quite recently.  They have devoted tremendous energy and commitment to Classics but it’s fair to say we lag behind pretty much the rest of the world.  
Australia has arguably the highest per capita classic car ownership in the world.  Classic car acitivities attract tens of thousands of members around the country.  Quite often, our biggest selling car magazine is a classic publication.  We also have an ageing population with high disposable income.  Classic rallying should be booming.  It certainly is booming in tarmac events so there’s no reason we can’t do similarly for gravel events.  
But remember, ARCom is not just about the ARC, so I think we need to have categories like the Classics happening right across the sport at all levels. Historic rallying, principally through the Historic Rally Association in Victoria, is another marvellous resource for our sport.  The HRA is running exactly the sort of events a large number of people want and at the same time is offering great opportunites for people new to the sport.

RSM:
There is a widespread feeling that 4WD rally cars are not entertaining to watch. Can you suggest any ways of getting spectators back into the forests to watch rallies?

Ed:
If you were starting with a clean sheet of paper you would say rally cars should be enormously powerful with not much grip.  Unfortunately our sport at all levels, including the WRC, has somehow evolved into a low-power, high grip formula! It’s the complete opposite of what rally cars should be. Imagine if you took V8 Supercars and cut the power by 55%, added 100kg to the weight, fitted them with 4WD and complex, active transmissions, aerodynamics that glued them to the road and specialist tyres from F1 – that’s pretty much what’s happened to rallying.  
RallySport Magazine’s recent poll says it all. 60% voted rear-wheel-drive as the most exciting cars to watch,  twice as many votes as World Rally Cars.  When you consider that we haven’t really had rear-drive categories for more than 20 years, the die-hard fans are saying cars from 20 years ago are better to watch than the million-dollar WRCars of today – that’s quite an indictment of our sport.  Worse still, Group N and front-wheel-drive poll almost nothing.
Meantime, Drifting is capitalising on the same sentiment – if you have a 4WD you remove the front driveshafts and modify the transmission to make the car rear-drive.  Australians love rear-wheel-drive.  The current Ford Focus has probably got the formula right. It’s completely uncompetitive yet has a big following.  People crawl all over it; they love the way the car is engineered and modified.  The sponsors think it’s marvellous.
A booming state and national championship for powerful, rear-drive c ars would be just what the sport needs but I doubt if I can make that happen in 12 months! Pity, the WRC should go that way too.  At the very least we should get rid of turbo restrictors and let the current cars rev and breathe properly.  It’s completely insane to take a perfectly good showroom car, cut its power and revs with a restrictor, then spend a fortune on engine rebuilds and exotic fuels to try and get the performance back.
I have never understood why we have turbo restrictors in Australian rallying.

RSM:
Because of the amount of paperwork involved in organizing events, and the burgeoning increase in complying with all sorts of new regulations, what do you think the future of rallying is in Australia in the next few years?

Ed:
It doesn’t seem to be a problem for the tarmac rally organizers, with many new events appearing. The promoters of the individual events are commercial people who know how to look after their clients (the competitors) properly.  There are many lessons for gravel rallying from the way tarmac events are structured.  
The way the new tarmac rally car regulations have been worked through is an outstanding model of collaboration in the sport to ensure no-one is disenfranchised, the cars are actually what competitors want to run and the performance of the vehicles is exciting and spectacular.  
We should try and harness some of the expertise from tarmac rallies and apply it to gravel rallying.  We need events that people want to enter and to do that we need to understand what motivates people to spend their hard-earned dollars on rallying and make sure we are addressing their needs.  I must say I have little idea of how to run an event and I need to get up to speed on the problems.  
Ross Tapper and Errol Bailey have already been trememdously helpful and I hope to go to a Tarmac Rally Organisers meeting soon. It’s an area of weakness for me.

RSM:
Now that it has been announced that the new home of Rally Australia will be located in Queensland, do you believe that the FIA will include Australia in an expanded WRC program?

Ed:
The WRC event gives immeasurable credibility to our sport even at club and state level.  It gives rallying positive respect and recognition at government and commercial levels that it could not achieve otherwise.  I certainly know in my own career it was Rally Australia that allowed me to be a professional driver.  
People often ask why I put so much commitment into winning Group N those 8 times at Telstra Rally Australia – in most cases those wins opened the doors to the funding that allowed us to compete in the ARC for the whole of the next year!  I am still staggered that competitors at the top level have not capitalised on the opportunity that the WRC event offered – most treated it as an add-on at the end of the season if they had enough budget left. In reality it was the Bathurst 1000 of rallying and considerably more beneficial to a driver’s career than winning the ARC.  
It is certainly in the ARCom terms of reference to support a round of the WRC in Australia and so it should be.  We have the best person possible in Garry Connelly in giving us maximum opportunity to get the event back.  Against that we have a sport in this country which has never really warmed to the WRC and has an intense dislike for most of the FIA regulations that come along as part of the responsibility of having a WRC. I think it’s going to be a tough call but if anyone can do it, Garry can.  
We should all then get right behind the event and give it our utmost support.

RSM:
Do you think that the recent CAMS bulletin amendment allowing drivers to compete in closed road, special stage rallies after their civil licence had been suspended, was good for the image of the sport?

Ed:
No. This is a very difficult situation for me.  Firstly, although I am not a member of ARCom until 2007, I think it tremendously important that ARCom is united in its decisions.  It’s part of working in any democracy that regardless of your own position, if the committee makes an elected decision you should support it even if it doesn’t go your way. If I was on ARCom I would have to support the ARCom policy on this.  
However I ‘m not a member of ARCom yet and I have a strong role as a road safety advocate and in promoting rallying as a responsible way to use high performance cars.  I also have worked on Junior Driver programs and my own company has conducted a great deal of pro-motorsport, anti-hooning activities.
If I get asked by people, “Don’t you think your sport promotes hoon driving?”, I always reply that rallying offers a responsible and safe way to use cars in sport and the bottom line is, if we hoon on the street and lose our licences, we can’t rally. We now have a situation where a rally driver is banned from driving down a public road because he’s had his licence taken away for gross speeding but the sport says, “That’s OK, we don’t mind, come and drive a factory rally car down the same road at 200km/h.”
The bulletin undermines every car club’s efforts to use motorsport to promote responsible driving on the street.

In the second part of our exclusive Ed Ordynski interview, Ed talks about his clashes with current Chairman, Garry Connelly, and answers the tough ARCom questions: are the appointments just "jobs for mates", and are the members "faceless people" that most in rallying know nothing about?

READ PART TWO OF THE INTERVIEW HERE

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