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Full steam ahead for Australian rallying

Despite a widespread feeling that next year’s NEC Australian Rally Championship will not see the level of enthusiasm of the late 1990s and early 2000’s maintained, there are positive signs that the sport will take a turn for the better.

Fraught with a number of serious problems, both internal and external in recent times, moves are under way on a number of fronts to overhaul Australia’s premier rally championship and to return it to the level it once enjoyed.

Despite the loss of two important rounds of the championship, the Subaru Safari Tasmania and the NGK Rally of Melbourne, and speculation that at least one other round will be pulled from the calendar, there appears to be renewed interest in the ailing series.

As hinted elsewhere on RallySport Magazine’s website, moves are already under way to resurrect the Rally of Melbourne after it was pulled from the calendar after this year’s running, and a new event, the Great Lakes Rally, will fill the void left by the cancellation of the Tasmanian ARC round.

Recently-appointed ARCom Chairman, Ed Ordynski, will take over his new position from January 1 next year, and news of his appointment has been well received by a majority of rally stakeholders who were of the belief that their needs were being ignored while all attention was paid to Australia’s WRC round.  

According to one leading competitor, there’s a feeling amongst ARC competitors that next year will see the start of a new direction in rallying. While Ordynski was reluctant to speculate on possible changes to ARCom and to the ARC, the South Australian acknowledged that there needs to be a re-appraisal of the way the sport is structured at the moment.

“The effect on rallying in Australia if we lost Rally Australia or a round of the Asia-Pacific Series would be minimal,” he told RallySport Magazine. “But if we lost our State Series there would be a measurable effect on the sport, and an even greater effect on rallying if we lost club level events. So we need to re-focus our attention on the bottom of the pyramid to nurture club-level sport before we start worrying too much about the pinnacle of rallying.”

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However, despite having some far-reaching plans to enhance the popularity of club rallying, Ordynski pointed out that he intends to hasten slowly and people should not expect to see wholesale changes immediately.

“One of the things I hope to be able to do is to speed up the time taken to implement rule changes that ARCom instigate for the benefit of rallying as a whole. If we can short-cut this process it will improve relations between competitors and ARCom, which cannot be a bad thing.

“There are a raft of other things that need to be addressed as well and I am determined that these will be attended to as quickly as possible.”

With a new chairman at the helm and a revitalized ARCom committee, we can expect to see many changes during 2007, not the least of which will be a better deal for grass roots rallying and worthwhile improvements to the Australian Championship.

While the leading ARC privateer teams feel that they’ve been ignored over the past few seasons, there is hope that more of those who have left the sport can be encouraged to return in 2007. Indeed, a privateer group with plans to run a major East Coast rally series have been meeting over recent months and are hoping that such a series will get off the ground soon.

Also under scrutiny are the operations of ARCom and Rallycorp, the move designed to uncover some of the perceived mystery of these organizations which competitors and entrants have long been critical of.

While 2007 may not see the return of the heady days of the 1990s, the winds of change can already be felt. RallySport Magazine feels confident that Australian rallying is on the way up again.

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