The premier rally on the East Coast of Australia, the Rally of Canberra, may be living on borrowed time if reports in yesterday's Canberra Times newspaper are anything to go by.

The following report is from The Canberra Times:

"The Rally of Canberra could be on its way out with the ACT Tourism Minister Andrew Barr indicating yesterday its government funding could be axed.

Only a fraction over 1500 people turned up to March's races, down against an expectation of 4000 visitors and the 2005 figure of 10,000.

The rally has lost its sponsor, car-maker Subaru, and speaking before the budget estimates committee, Mr Barr said the ACT's financial commitment, amounting to $853,000 for this year's races, was in doubt.

"It has been disappointing, the number of visitors for the event," he said.

"For the future of the event it is important to get a new sponsor because, as a tourism event, it currently does not stack up.

"We need to find a sponsor for it because, without one, we would have to look at it."

The rally is one of the most established in the country.

It has been part of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship since 1999 and this year was, for the first time, a point-scoring round in the Australian Rally Championship.

But that did nothing to generate any more support around the course with visitor numbers slumping to only 1553, with the ACT Government now fearing only 1200 will turn up for next year's round.

Negotiations for a new sponsor are focused on the motoring sector but latest figures for the rally will have done nothing to give the event a strong base for bargaining.

"We do need to look at how we can better organise the event because, on the basis of a financial destination, it doesn't generate the returns," Mr Barr said.

As well as its low attendance, the rally has tended not to get the media coverage that would justify the continued backing of it by the ACT.

Events like the Australia Day celebrations and Floriade cost significant amounts but make up for that not only in revenues generated but also, and perhaps more crucially, in focusing the media's attention on Canberra.

The minister's dim view of the race's future was backed by the head of Canberra's peak tourism body, the Tourism Industry Council.

Kym Cheatham said that on the outcome of this year's event, it was hard to justify the money put in.

"The fact that 1500 tickets were sold for the cost of the rally coupled with the loss of sponsorship, I would say that throws the whole event into doubt," she said.

But the rallying fraternity was less pessimistic about hopes for keeping the race going.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Rally Championship said the Canberra event was down for inclusion in next year's calendar.

"We are confident that the Rally of Canberra will be able to find a sponsor because of the excitement and returns being a round of the championship can provide," she said.

The minister also addressed another motorsport headache, the ongoing dispute over the proposed dragway, and said the Government's funding would be capped at $8million with no rolling subsidies for ongoing costs.

Greens MLA Deb Foskey said Mr Barr was unable to say if there had been any interest from the private sector in funding the project, earmarked for land on Majura Road.

"For its $8million the Government will create a white elephant or dud dragway which will inevitably generate hefty demands for ongoing public funding," she said.

"All in all, the dragway looks like an embarrassment the Government is seeking to wash its hands off," she said."

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