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The Australian Rally Commission has announced that Tasmania will host the first major tarmac round in the 41 year history of the Australian Rally Championship.  

The Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge, to be run out of Burnie in the state’s north, will take place on October 4 and 5, keeping the ARC as a six-event series.
Only once before has a tarmac event had any ARC status at all. In 1996, Rally Tasmania was a third tier event when the series had major and minor rounds.
The opportunity for Tasmania to rejoin the Championship, after a one year absence, arose when the Rally of Melbourne withdrew from the 2008 calendar earlier this week.
Australian Rally Commission (ARCom) Chairman, Col Trinder, was delighted that a new host was found so quickly, and that a tarmac round has been introduced to the Championship.
“Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge was on the front foot indicating their willingness to step into the breech, and I believe it is a great outcome for the sport,” Trinder said.
“Tarmac rallies are definitely part of the future of the sport. Look at the World Rally Championship - it tests its competitors on a range of surfaces.
“We think our calendar should reflect what is happening in the ultimate evolution of the sport. Chris Atkinson is doing a great job showcasing Australian talent in the World Championship at the moment, but when he went there four years ago he had no tarmac experience at all.
“We hope there will be another Chris Atkinson that goes onto the WRC, and that person will go there with a wider range of experiences thanks to this initiative, and we see that as a real positive,” Trinder said.
MSR Corporate chairman, Les Walkden, believes that Tasmania is the perfect place for the first tarmac round of the ARC.
“It is widely acknowledged that Tasmania has the best driving roads in the country, and some of the best in the world,” Walkden said.
“We’re lucky that so many of them are in the bordering Burnie and Waratah/Wynyard Shires, and that the Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge already uses them on an annual basis.
“So we can incorporate the ARC event into our event and have a fantastic showcase of cars and competitors.
“It’s a really exciting step for the sport and for the state,” he added.
“The sport needs to embrace change. Tarmac rallies are big overseas and they are growing here as well.
“There is no doubt that Tasmanians love motorsport. We’ve missed having a round of the ARC. I’m sure the people of this state will come out and support it, and the media here will get behind it as well.”
Walkden believes that he has a good team in place to make the event a success from the outset.
“We’re not starting from scratch that’s for sure. Rallye Burnie, as it was known, and our other event, Rally Tasmania, have run for many years. Ross Tapper, our Clerk of Course, is one of the most experienced operators in the game. Our event director, Scott Spedding, is a really top operator, and both Ross and Scott have good teams behind them.
“We’ve got 13 weeks to get ready and competitors have got 13 weeks to get ready. It’s not a lot of time, but it is time enough. Those that come are assured of a very warm welcome,” Walkden said.
With the ink barely dry on the agreement between ARCom and MSR Corporate, technical regulations for the event - that now incorporates modern, classic and ARC registered cars - are yet to be finalised. ARCom expect these to be ready within a fortnight.

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