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With only one round of the FIA World Rally Championship remaining before Telstra Rally Australia, the drivers, teams, and personnel have preparations well under way for the final running of a WRC in Perth from 26 to 29 October, but this time, they’re packing with nostalgia.

Top drivers and teams have been coming to Telstra Rally Australia for 19 years, starting from the 1988 trial event. The drivers and teams have admitted that they regret this will be the last time Perth will be a port of call on the WRC calendar.

Colin McRae has always enjoyed Telstra Rally Australia. “It is a shame that the rally is moving from Perth,” said the Scotsman. “I have enjoyed many years experiencing the friendly and welcoming atmosphere in Perth around the time of the rally.”

McRae said he had two memorable moments of his time out West. “I have many memories of Telstra Rally Australia in Perth,” he said. “Obviously the highs have been my two wins with Subaru in 1994 and 1997, the lows include our big accident in the Focus in 1999.

“Last year we experienced both ends of the scale when we managed to be lying in second position with the Skoda on the final morning, only to be cruelly robbed of a fantastic result when a routine clutch change went wrong at the final service.”

McRae added that it was more than the sport that he would miss. “I will miss the legendary after-rally parties and the superb climate that you guys enjoy,” he added wistfully.

McRae’s long-time co-driver, Nicky Grist, also shared fondness for Telstra Rally Australia.

“From its first inclusion into the WRC, Perth has always been regarded as the home of Rally Australia and I think for many it will always be the home of the event.” Grist said. “I will always remember my very first visit to the rally in Perth and that was in 1993 when I won it on my first attempt. I have had a lot of memorable visits since then, of which one was another victory, but the first win is the most memorable.”  

Grist said he would never forget the setting of the service park and the Super Special Stage on Langley Park with the Swan River as its back drop, but for him, it was the people that made the event special.

“I will never forget the incredibly warm welcome we always received from all the event’s officials. It is all the officials’ expertise and enthusiasm which made Telstra Rally Australia the event that really set the high standards now required for any event in the WRC. The advertising slogan ‘The best on earth in Perth’ for me, was for the officials.”

Ford team boss Malcolm Wilson is another visitor who will miss Perth’s warm weather and welcome.

"Perth is a pleasant place and I will miss it from a personal view.  The sun usually shines when we are there and the rally always receives a warm welcome from the locals.”

Wilson’s BP Ford World Rally Team hasn’t enjoyed the best results at Telstra Rally Australia, as reflected in the two moments that stick in Wilson’s mind.

“The first was in 1997 when Carlos Sainz had a chance of winning the world title in an Escort WRC.  He led going into the final day but then the car had cam belt problems in Bunnings and it was all over,” he said.

“My other main memory comes from 2001 when Colin McRae arrived late to select his start position for the second leg.  He had to run first on the road, the worst possible place in Australia, and the points that cost played a major part in not winning the world title."

Another team player, George Donaldson, had more positive memories of the event. Donaldson has been involved with Telstra Rally Australia with Toyota Team Europe and more recently with Subaru Technica International. For Donaldson, it is the people and the place that made him love the rally.

“Being introduced to the West Australian ‘can do’ attitude was something,” he said. “Nothing can't be done, everything can be made. Everything was ‘no problem mate!’.”

Donaldson said he would miss many things about Perth, from boat trips on the Swan to a particular fish restaurant in Fremantle.

Even Australian drivers are tinged with nostalgia at the final running of this annual event.

“I believe that Rally Australia has helped to put Perth on the radar for millions of people worldwide who would otherwise never have heard of Perth, especially kids from all over the world who play the WRC stage on Playstations!” said former Australian Rally Champion Ross Dunkerton.

Former champion duo Neal Bates and co-driver Coral Taylor said they would miss the organisation of the rally.

“We always felt that the people of Western Australia were so welcoming and friendly and we will miss visiting Perth,” Bates said. Taylor added that she would even miss the long drives across the Nullarbor, which she actually loved.

With everyone from the world’s best drivers to the newest official cherishing a memory of Telstra Rally Australia in Perth, rally fans need to be quick to secure tickets if they want to witness the excitement and emotion of the final WRC event in Perth.

A fantastic opening ceremony will take place at Gloucester Park on Thursday night featuring a parade of didgeridoos, drummers and dancers before a RAAF flyover. Saturday night will be the last ever running of the Gloucester Park Super Special stage featuring special final event celebrations.

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