The Coffs Coast of New South Wales hosted the most successful round of Rally Australia in the event’s 21-year history, according to the final attendance total announced today.

The World Rally Championship event, which finished last Sunday, attracted 92,223 people over three days and three nights to ticketed and non-ticketed venues, surpassing the crowds at previous events in Western Australia and the NSW Northern Rivers.

The rally, won for the third straight time by Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen of the Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, has drawn praise from many quarters, from competitors to championship authorities and spectators.

Rally Australia General Manager Michael Masi said today the event’s success had provided strong momentum to negotiate for a return in 2013 and beyond.

“Now that we’ve had a few days to catch up on the final attendance figures and the general reaction, it’s clear we are in a great position to secure a longer-term place in the FIA World Rally Championship,” Mr Masi said.

“The final attendance total of 92,223 – including repeat visits by multiple-day pass holders - is significantly beyond the initial figure of 86,000 we disclosed on the morning after the rally.

“It’s also well above our expectations for this first event on the Coffs Coast, but we need to do still more analysis and planning and there are quite a few steps ahead before we could possibly announce further dates.

“Rally Australia will put together a business plan and discuss the options with our partners in State and local government and the championship organisers.

“We would like to be back here in 2013, which is the first available opportunity, and then annually in order to maximise the potential of our supporters and partners and of our organising team.”

Mr Masi said the strongest factor influencing Rally Australia’s future had been the quality of the welcome from the Coffs Coast community.

“Everywhere the teams and other visiting internationals went they were overwhelmed by the warmth of the welcome.

“There is clearly a great rally heritage in this region, with memories of the legendary Southern Cross International rally still fresh and the roads were described by drivers such as Mikko Hirvonen as among the best in the rally world.”

“I’d like to thank the people of Coffs Harbour and the surrounds for putting their best foot forward and showing the world how to make a great event.

“We could not be more proud of how all the stakeholders came together. Yes, we know we will need to tweak a few things, but this is the first time it was run and we’re confident we can sort things out.”

Mr Masi said he was grateful for the comments of World Rally Championship Manager Michelle Mouton, a legendary figure in world rallying, reported on

She was reported saying during her visit from France: “I have been happily surprised by the number of people attending the ceremonial start and the people at the autograph session before the rally was incredible.

“The organisation has been good on this event and they have a good base for the event here. For me, this event was very positive - the promotion has been very good. In the newspaper, all they talk about is the rally.”

Mr Masi said: “Michelle Mouton is one of the most esteemed people in the WRC, not only as the current championship manager appointed by the Federation de l’Automobile, but also as a highly successful former competitor. To read her positive comments has been enormously rewarding.

“We also received comments from key people such as the head of championship promoter North One Sport Simon Long along with Nokia Director of Global Sponsorships Billy Wright that Rally Australia was one of the best events they had attended this year.

“These comments should give everyone involved on the Coffs Coast the incentive to work towards a bigger and better event in 2013.”

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