Propecia Rally New Zealand (RNZ) is taking a long hard look at the changes recommended by the World Motorsport Council of the FIA in Paris, with many of them impacting on the New Zealand round of the World Rally Championship (WRC).

Newly elected World Rally Championship Commission President Morrie Chandler returned from Paris today and immediately met with Rally NZ officials to discuss the future direction of the sport under his guidance.

RNZ Clerk of the Course Willard Martin says the message out of the Paris meeting with three popular events axed and radical changes mooted is clear; Rally New Zealand must raise the bar if they are to continue as a round of the WRC, regardless of who is in the President’s chair.

“Our focus from a sporting perspective is to ensure that our event is the best on the calendar and one that the drivers, teams and spectators love returning to. The departure of Cyprus, Turkey and in particular the superbly run Australian event should be a warning to us all that no event has a right to continued inclusion on the WRC calendar. November this year in Hamilton becomes an even greater focus for us.”

Martin says the sporting decisions made in Paris are largely based on cost saving but will impact on the running of the New Zealand event.

“The move to allow remote servicing is important for us if we are to avoid long touring times in the middle of the day. This is brought about by the need for cars to return to service from distant special stages and does nothing for the spectators, media or teams on the event. The likely allowance for remote servicing will provide us with far greater flexibility when planning special stages and allow for the inclusion of a greater variety of roads.”

This and other changes tabled at the meeting in Paris will become effective from January 1st 2007 with the finer detail agreed at the next WRC Council meeting. Martin says the early signaling of change is a good move from the WRC.

“The changes affecting engines (limiting the number and specification that can be used) and tyres (a move to one tyre manufacturer from 2008) are motivated by cost. Any saving that the championship can make is a further incentive for manufacturers to stay or return to the sport and that can only be good for our event. It is my belief that these changes could well boost entries to the championship and to Rally New Zealand, if not in the short term then certainly in 2007 and beyond.”

The WRC also moved to tighten the rules on cars returning to an event after previously being ruled out. Existing Super Rally rules that allow for a returning car to compete for championship points with a time penalty for any missed stages will be replaced by bonus points applied for each leg (day) of a rally (1st = 3 points, 2nd = 2 points and 3rd = 1 point). This is to ensure the final classification applies only to competitors who complete the entire route. The present 2006 point structure allows for a rally winner to potentially not have contested the complete event. This anomaly will be removed from 2007.

The championship will retain its January to December calendar, resisting earlier suggestions to move to a northern hemisphere winter season. It was felt that given the number of other changes affecting the sport at the present time that stability was called for with regards the WRC season.
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