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The preferred route for Repco Rally Australia, the FIA World Rally Championship event to be staged in northern New South Wales next September, will cover just less than 350 kilometres in competition on roads in the Tweed and Kyogle Shires.

The proposed event schedule for 3-6 September comprises 34 competitive “special stages” between Burringbar, close to the Pacific coast, and Bonalbo, south-west of Kyogle.

Details of the preferred route, which is subject to approval of a Development Application to be lodged next month and the New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service, were announced yesterday by the rally organisers at community meetings in Kingscliff, Murwillumbah and Kyogle.

Garry Connelly, Chairman of the rally organising committee, said less than 10 kms of the entire distance would pass through national parks.

“We have sought out the best professional advice both locally and elsewhere to run the event in harmony with its surroundings,” he said.

“Tremendous effort has gone into developing this route so it will satisfy the requirements of all authorities yet challenge the skills of the world’s best drivers.

“We appreciated the turnout of people at yesterday’s meetings and welcomed the reactions of both supporters and critics.

“These will be considered very carefully to ensure we make the maximum possible contribution to the region.

“The FIA World Rally Championship stands alongside the FIA Formula 1 World Championship at the pinnacle of motorsport and it’s a tremendous coup to have the support of the State Government, through Events New South Wales, to bring it here.

“It will bring excitement, pride and economic benefit to residents and businesses across northern New South Wales, plus thousands of international and interstate visitors who will take away a memory of one of the most beautiful parts of Australia.”

The proposed rally stages will be run almost entirely on lightly-used shire roads, none of which will be closed to residents for more than four hours at a time. It is expected each section of road will be used for one day’s competition only.

Numerous public spectator areas will be provided around the route.

The highlight of these is intended to be around a two km version of the Speed on Tweed course in the heart of Murwillumbah, which would be used for a “super-special stage” for the World Rally cars on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Yesterday’s meetings heard questions about environmental issues potentially affecting wildlife and flora, resident access along rally roads, resident spectator passes, safety, medical emergency arrangements, rectification, volunteering, community fund-raising opportunities and many other matters.

The public was told Development Application approval was necessary to stage the rally. The application will be submitted to Tweed and Kyogle councils late next month and will include an Environmental Assessment report prepared by the rally‘s consultant Dr Steve Phillips, of Biolink Pty Ltd.

Representatives of the Githabul People, who hold native title rights in National Parks areas included in the rally route, have been consulted. This process will continue in order to ensure the interests of the Githabul People are satisfied.

Roads included on the preferred route include Ferndale Rd, Old Cob O Corn Rd, Hillyards Rd, Homeleigh Rd, Williams Rd, Byrill Creek Rd, Cudgera Creek Rd, Smarts Rd, Reserve Creek Rd, Eden Creek Rd, Peacock Creek Rd, Sextonville Rd, Afterlee Rd, Iron Pot Creek Rd, Ghi Ghi Rd, Collins Creek Rd, Lynchs Creek Rd, Round Mountain Rd, and Sargents Rd.

The 2009 WRC, of which Repco Rally Australia is the 10th round, started last weekend in Ireland and will visit a total of 12 countries including Norway, Argentina, Greece, Spain and Britain.

Competitors will include the most successful driver in the sport’s history, Frenchman Sebastien Loeb, who has won 48 rounds and five world championships with Citroen.

Repco Rally Australia organisers also are hoping to attract Australia’s Chris Atkinson, who has joined the Citroen Junior World Rally Team after four years with Subaru.

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