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New Rallycorp chairman, Ben Rainsford, is already working hard to ensure the long-term success of the Australian Rally Championship, despite only taking up the role earlier this month.

Rallycorp, the commercial rights holder of the ARC, is currently undergoing a restructuring phase under Rainsford’s reign, with plenty of immediate issues on the agenda.

“It’s fair to say that there’s a lot of work ahead of us,” Rainsford told RallySportMag.com.au this week. “There will be a lot of changes made to Rallycorp as we currently know it, and hopefully that will have beneficial effects for the ARC moving forward.”

Some of the first tasks facing Rainsford include the hunt for a series sponsor, and securing more manufacturers for the national championship, despite the current economic downturn.

“The decision from the Australian Rally Commission (ARCom) on the Victorian and NSW events is imminent,” Rainsford says.

“For New South Wales we would expect to be returning to Coffs Harbour in 2009. The event ran well in 2008, and it was financially viable.

“There’s a great car club base behind the Coffs Harbour rally and some really great people working on the event. The region is also well received by competitors and spectators.

“ARCom are currently dealing with the two promoters in Victoria, and have indicated they will be in a position to be to make a decision shortly.

“We’re confident that the Victorian event chosen will be a great asset to the ARC,” Rainsford added.

On the sponsorship front, there are currently three ‘live’ submissions  with businesses who are interested in being the ARC series sponsor, although Rainsford admits that getting any of them over the line at this late stage is unlikely.

“We’re having discussions with the manufacturer of a household cleaning product, a motor industry parts reseller, and an unrelated company who are interested in brand presence and the television exposure we can offer, but given the time of year and the short timeframe between now and the first round of the championship in February, it will be difficult to secure a deal for 2009,” he admits.

The financial situation is also likely to have an impact on manufacturer support in next year’s championship. Toyota has still not committed to the ARC, and neither Honda or Mazda are in a situation to sign on the dotted line.

“We’re in regular contact with Toyota, and we understand their wish is to again run two cars,” Rainsford explained. “Honda have great potential for an ARC program in 2009, however, with their recent withdrawal from Formula 1, things are a little up in the air. A lot will depend on the effect the economic crisis has on their vehicle sales.”

“We have seen Mazda participate in the Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge this year, achieving outstanding results in what is obviously a well prepared car. It would be great to see the Mazda3 MPS in the Australian Championship for 2009 and beyond.”

Rallycorp has had an encouraging response to their call for volunteers to perform a number of key roles for next year’s ARC, including public relations, sponsorship liaison, manufacturer liaison assistance, bookkeeping and strategic vision.

“I’ve been quite shocked by the response, and by the caliber of people who have indicated their interest in helping out,” Rainsford added. “We’ve had some really influential business people offering their assistance.

“In fact, the support I’ve had in the three weeks since I took over as Rallycorp chairman has been quite overwhelming. It’s been fantastic, and shows that there are a lot of people passionate about the sport, and eager to ensure the success of the ARC.”

Rainsford says that the restructuring of Rallycorp will include giving event organisers more control over how their events are run, and investing more resources into the promotion and publicity of the championship.

“We need to be utilising the stars of the sport in various ways, including to help get sponsors over the line,” he says. “There are a lot of negatives in the business and corporate world at the moment, but we need to continue to believe that we’ve got an exciting and marketable sport, and push forward with the positives.”

While not underestimating the task ahead of him, Rainsford is clearly a breath of fresh air that Rallycorp needed. With the support of the rallying community, his vision of turning the Australian Rally Championship around may just prove fruitful.

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