The news may have taken a long while to be announced, but last week’s confirmation that Rally Australia will be held in northern New South Wales is a huge boost for rallying in Australia.

Now before all the doom-sayers pipe up and push their arguments that a WRC round does nothing for the Australian Rally Championship, state championship level rallying or, even more so, club rallying, there’s a few things that need to be considered.

From a competitors’ point of view, it’s probably true that the inclusion of a round of the World Rally Championship on our shores does little, in the short term, for the growth of the sport. In all likelihood, there won’t be too many (if any) enthusiasts who will race out and buy a rally car, kit themselves up with all the FIA safety equipment and lodge their entry for the Repco-sponsored event.

Similarly, history shows that there aren’t too many ARC-registered competitors who will take up the chance to add Rally Australia to their program, and even less who’ll make the step from a state championship to a WRC round. But having said that, our history is drawn from figures for an event that was previously held in Perth, some 4000km from Australia’s major population base.

Many club rallyists, who have no ambition to enter a WRC round, and often no interest in the top level of the sport, see the event as a major burden on their sport, with the huge resources and infrastructure that an event as big as Rally Australia involves.

That, however, is a negative view that does the sport no good whatsoever.

The truth is, an Australian round of the World Rally Championship has a long term effect that should benefit the sport for years to come, and hopefully ensure its future. While we can harp about the glory days and how good the sport used to be, in all truthfulness, it does us little good.

Business doesn’t move forward by looking backwards, and an Australian WRC round on the east coast of the country will give the sport huge recognition that it has never seen before. More people than ever will be aware of Rally Australia - through TV reports, newspaper and radio articles, and via the internet. And all being equal, this new interest in the sport should slowly, but surely be transferred into higher spectator numbers, more competitors, and increased sponsorship.

Make no mistake, rallying is undergoing a tough period at the moment, but anyone who thinks that the emergence of Repco Rally Australia is anything but good news for Australian rallying is surely kidding themselves.

If you’re still a doubting Thomas, ask yourself this. Would tennis in Australia be as big as it is without the Australian Open? Would cricket be as popular without the annual one-day matches? The number of kids out in the parks playing tennis and cricket during these events shows that it has a positive impact on their sports, and the same should apply to rallying. If we don’t push rallying into their faces at a young age, then we risk losing them forever.

You have to have an interest in a sport before you start playing or competing, and by putting an action-packed, high adrenalin sport like rallying out there with other “cool” sports, then we’re on the right track.

For the diehard rally fan like you and I, who are already hooked on the sport, the all-new Rally Australia has an even more immediate benefit.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of rally fans are already planning their annual holidays for September next year. What could be better than linking in a trip to a round of the WRC with a week of R&R on the Gold Coast - or better still - on the northern NSW coast?

The NSW and Queensland economies will benefit hugely from Repco Rally Australia, and in return, Australian rallying will hopefully benefit from their willingness to be involved in the event.

From this side of the bunting, it’s clear that Australian rallying needs a successful marquee event, and Repco Rally Australia should be the perfect choice.

After all, it’s a round of the World Rally Championship - the best of the best - on our own shores. And what could be better than that?

- Peter Whitten 


"After reading your article on Rally Australia, I would like to confirm your thoughts that Rally Oz does have a positive impact on local rallying.

A large number of the clubman competitors in WA have come from Rally Oz officials and young guys, like myself, who have pretty much grown up with Rally Oz in our back yard for 20 years.

I think you will be surprised how much of a longer term impact it will have in the state holding the event. Also, from memory, each year there were at least 20-odd state competitors who would enter. There used to be even more when the 2WD cars like Corollas, Charades and Suzukis were competing.

Here’s another interesting point - you will probably also see an increase in the number of well-built ex-Rally Oz cars for sale over there. More good cars to drool over, and at the end of the day they end up in the state rounds, which is a good thing. Just my two cents."

Matt Snaddon, WA.

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