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Despite the departure of Rally Australia General Manager Gary Upson and several other key officials as revealed by RallySport Magazine last week, those close to the event are adamant that planning for a 2011 round of the World Rally Championship will proceed as normal.

Speaking to RallySport Magazine only on guarantee of anonymity, a Rally Australia official claimed that the future of the Northern Rivers-based event is secure despite the departure of Upson, Operations Manager Bob Newman, and Event Support Co-Ordinator Sam Pearce.

“It wasn’t a case of terminating their contracts early, it was simply a case that the contracts had run out”, the insider claimed. “The problem that Rally Australia faces with its appointments is that the current FIA rotational system whereby events such as the Australian and the New Zealand (and other) rounds of the World Rally Championship run only every alternate year, is that it is untenable financially to have key appointments employed with little to do between events. However, it should be known that the vast majority of appointments will stay in place,” the senior official claimed.

Questioned about the possible future of Rally Australia remaining in the Murwillumbah and Kyogle areas in two year’s time, the insider said that there was overwhelming support for the event to return. “There were many fence-sitters prior to the event who were unsure of the impact, good or bad, that the rally would have on the ecologically sensitive area, however many of these are now convinced that Repco Rally Australia has done more good than harm for the Northern Rivers region. Already there are local authorities actively investigating ways to make the rally more competitor-friendly and looking at ways of improving spectator access.”

RallySport Magazine understands that a survey of local residents who were impacted in both large and small ways by the passage of the rally and undertaken by Southern Cross University, showed that 87.2% of those surveyed want the rally back in the future. Ideas for improvement floated include moving the Service Park further inland while retaining rally headquarters at the Salt complex at Kingscliff, as well as utilizing remote service areas to necessitate just one pass of the monotonous Murwillumbah – Kyogle road per day.

Proposed changes to the FIA’s rules relating to the inclusion of mixed-surface stages in the future would add to Rally Australia’s appeal as this format, if implemented, could open up a greater diversity of roads in the area.

However the spokesman said that the greatest deterrent to future planning was the current rotational system. “You cannot have sponsors, officials and volunteers standing around treading water for an extra 12 months while hoping that the FIA would look kindly at Australia’s application for an annual event. There is no doubt about the future, Events NSW are contracted to the CAMS-owned event until 2017.”

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