LETTERS: Grass roots rallying #2
- 20th May 2008, 7:43pm
I recently went to watch the opening special stage of the Quit Forrest Rally in WA. The reason I was there was to support a good friend who was given the opportunity to do a few hot laps in of all things “A GROUP G DATSUN 1600". Heaven forbid, and what's worse, anyone interested in rallying in WA would recognise the little yellow DAZDA. Yep that’s right - a hybrid Datsun. Please keep in mind some Australian Champions have driven cars like this and it was also responsible for changing the face of rallying in Australia.
It was amazing the interest and response given to us and the car, which was an original log booked Dazda that survived the rigours of rallying of the 80’s. We even got the thumbs up from Neal Bates who himself is currently competing in the new Group G class… oops did I say that?
The following day we competed in the speed event, but the car is still set up for dirt and wasn’t handling at its best, but needless to say it was a good day and the car looked great.
What was interesting was that most of the peddlers who where competing in the speed event, had had some involvement in rallying over the years and even the odd State Rally Champion were there. The general opinion of the majority of the competitors and spectators that spoke to us was that the reason they are involved in speed events is because it is easy and the governing bodies’ involvement was very limited. You could show up on the day in anything with wheels and as long as it was safe, you had a helmet and a license, you could race.
I remember the days in rallying when it was that easy. My first ever event was around ’87-‘88, I think, in a 180BSSS. We were already members of a car club and we got our licenses at scutineering. The car was passed and we went rallying as a novice. What that meant was, we didn’t need a roll cage, but we had to have helmets (but we did) and from memory we required harnesses but we were not allowed to compete at night. It wasn’t a great event, we DNF'd because we hit the only fence post on a strainer fence for about a kilometre, but needless to say, we had fun.
I know you hear a lot of people saying "listen to those 'old' blokes talking about the 'good old days'", and I am one of those blokes and I am not that old. My answer to them is, it wasn’t that long ago there were ten events a year, five were navigational events and five were special stages with a field of at least 40 to 50 or more cars in each event. I am sure there are people that have been involved in rallying longer than I have that would remember bigger fields than this. We have to ask the question why? My answer would be because it was easy. I am not suggesting that we let people run without a roll cage as we did back then or without other safety items, but the idea of paying for a $1000 clothing kit to go and throw your car around on the weekend is a little hard to swallow when you might be an apprentice or going to uni.
I am sure that spectators and competitors would come back to the sport if they could see or use a thundering V8, a barking rotary or a full tilt Escort that could be modified to a “silhouette class” of racing, which is what Clubman tries to do. That is, as long as the body remained in original or factory condition it could be raced. I was recently talking to a high profile motorsport figure in WA about the Dazda and I quote, “I do not have a problem with cars like this in rallying” and he was telling me that one of his ex Group G cars was in the process of being restored for speed events. I am positive that there are more cars like this and the Dazda that are log booked and original, sitting in people's sheds. Wouldn’t it be great to see 20 modified cars screaming through the forest?
That’s right - it slipped my mind, we can already watch highly modified cars screaming around the forest in a one make or two car series funded by Toyota…did I say that again…?
CAMS needs to start working for the people of the sport, not a governing body who appear to be more interested in F1 and the WRC, who have probably never seen a clubman round or "series". If competitors and spectators want to see and race modified cars, be it an unrestricted Subaru or an ex-Group G car, they should be given the opportunity. I understand and can appreciate the government bodies such as licensing in each state may make this difficult, but if a car can be licensed or registered, it should be allowed to compete, as stated in Schedule R of the CAMS manual.
Historic and Classic rallying come close to what I think people want to see, but I believe CAMS need to go one step further and that is to allow historically interesting cars such as ex-group G vehicles to run under the regulations, as long the vehicles meet the requirements of Schedule R. As I understand it, it is up to each event director’s discretion to allow whatever vehicles can run in an event, again as long as they meet the safety requirements. If a director allows a modified vehicle to run and they are deemed ineligible and do not appear in the results or interfere with other competitors, why should these vehicles be allowed a run at the rear of field?
Make no mistake, I am not disgruntled at the powers to be. I know I can go and build an RX-7 with PP engine that would produce a rude amount of horsepower with fuel injection, flairs, spoilers and a sequential 6 speed box plus all of the other fruit that was homologated, which almost make it Group G. I just choose not to because I love the old school rallying.
It seems that some small minded individuals seem to carry most of the weight on these decisions. I was of the understanding that the officials such as the Rally Panel, were put there by their relevant clubs, and therefore they should be supporting what a majority of the members want. If the members of a club want to see unrestricted cars, be it classic, historic or modern, this is what they should be approaching CAMS with. I am yet to hear a substantial argument from anyone as to why these types of vehicles should not run. In fact, there seems to a lot of underlying support.
It is a crying shame to see the state of rallying at the moment. As I said before, it wasn’t that long ago we used to fill huge fields. I hear people say it is difficult to get the roads now, but that does not make it impossible. Even if we only held five events a year because of road restrictions, wouldn’t it be better to have 60 or more cars in a field rather than 40?
CAMS and other officials really need to wake up before the lower end of this sport is driven into the dirt, literally. I understand the clubman "series" is in jeopardy in some states because of lack of entrants, which is a real shame, so what can we do? We can hound our Rally Panel and round up support until CAMS listens and maybe we can save the sport at the grass roots. Anyone that has, or knows of a log booked Group G rally car, please send me an email at email@example.com with details of it's readiness to race, to see if we can raise some more interest and possibly a sprint.
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