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The NEC Australian Rally Championship makes a welcome return to New South Wales on September 15-16 when the Great Lakes Rally debuts on the mid North Coast based at the holiday town of Forster.

The Great Lakes Rally will be round five, the penultimate round of this year’s NEC Australian Rally Championship, as well as round five of the hotly contested NSW State Rally Championship.

Australia’s leading drivers including reigning champion Simon Evans, his Toyota team boss and three times champion Neal Bates, as well as the Ford works drivers Michael Guest and Darren Windus, will line up against Subaru drivers Dean Herridge, Steve Glenney, Eli Evans and Brendan Reeves for a rally that will be new territory for all leading contenders.

The Great Lakes Rally was officially launched in Forster yesterday by rally stars Neal Bates, Coral Taylor and Michael Guest as well as Deputy Mayor of Great Lakes Council Jan McWilliam.

This is the first time in the modern era of Australian rallying that a round of the national championship has been held on the mid north coast and its legendary forestry roads.

The majority of the competition will be conducted between the timber town of Bulahdelah and the major regional centre of Taree over more than 180 kilometres of challenging gravel rally stages with a Super Special spectator stage providing enhanced viewing at Taree Showground on both Saturday and Sunday of the event.

Clerk of course, Mike Bell, says the new rally will put some adventure back into the Australian rally series using stages made famous by the legendary Southern Cross Rally of the 1970s.

“The roads we have selected will excite the drivers and fans alike and bring rallying back into forests that have a great history in the sport,” said Bell.

“Combine that with the backdrop of one of  the North Coast’s most beautiful holiday towns in Forster Tuncurry and you have the recipe for a rally that will grow and become a major fixture on the Australian motorsport calendar,” he said.

“Drivers will really enjoy the roads which combine traditional Australian forestry trails with some shire type roads,” he added.

Bell, one of Australia’s best and most accomplished rally administrators, has an impressive CV having run and organised major events including the Rally of Canberra and the famous Dunlop 2GO rally, which was Australia’s major International event  through the early 1980s.

Along with his team of experienced co-ordinators and officials Bell will control the rally from a special communications centre set up at rally headquarters within the Forster Tuncurry Memorial Services Club.

A high-tech radio and computer network will enable Bell to monitor every car and stage throughout the two-day rally, ensuring optimum safety and smooth running for the rally.

The new rally is expected to inject close to two million dollars into the Great Lakes region of NSW with more than 200 competitors and service crews as well as spectators, media and officials flooding into the picturesque holiday resort town.

It is a worthy replacement for the Forster Ironman event, which moved from the region  in 2005 after being wooed by another North Coast.

As well as hosting Australia’s best rally drivers in their battle for the national and NSW crowns, the rally will also cater for a field of classic rally machines which will remind spectators of the days of the Southern Cross.

The classic machines will contest more stages than the Australian and NSW Championship contenders competing well into Saturday night while the ARC and NSW crews are back in Forster preparing for heat two of their respective  titles.

The classic machines including BDA Escorts, Datsuns, Falcon GTs and other legendary cars will complete almost 330kms of stages over the two days while ARC crews will contest 14 stages totalling just on 180kms.

Full spectator instructions will be available to enable fans to travel to the forests and the Super Special stages to watch some of the country’s most spectacular motorsport action.
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