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A debilitating lack of entries from local rally competitors and the imminent loss of its naming rights sponsor may see the Subaru Safari Tasmania completely lost to the state following this year's event from July 14 -16.

The future of the Tasmanian round of the NEC Computers Australian Rally Championship (ARC), which has run in Tasmania's south since the mid sixties, appears uncertain mainly due to dwindling entries in its incorporated 'piggy back' event, the Tasmanian Rally Challenge (TRC).

Despite extensive marketing attempts, just three weeks out from the event no entries have been received for the TRC.

General Manager for Octagon Rob McGuire attributes the low entry numbers to poor planning in the 2006 Tasmanian CAMS motor sport calendar, which puts this year's Subaru Safari Tasmania in the middle of a seven week window between the third and fourth round of the Tasmanian Rally Series (TRS), and a refusal by TRS organisers to retain the Subaru Safari Tasmania as a round of their state series.

"The CAMS motor sport calendar is starting to dictate how many rallies local competitors can enter," says McGuire. "The CAMS calendar does not give competitors competing with minimal resources sufficient time to prepare their cars between events."

"Including Rally Burnie, four rallies in a seven week period is too many for the Tasmanian market. Our event is suffering because of it and so too will others."

Previously run by a local car club, Octagon won the organising rights to the Subaru Safari Tasmania in November 2004. While the event was initially supported by the TRS following the take over and remained a round of the local series in 2005, organisers of the TRS have since rejected any involvement in 2006.

"Unless we get a flood of support and entries from local competitors in the next week, it would seem likely that Octagon will withdraw its support of the Subaru Safari Tasmania which means it will most likely be lost to Tasmania after this year's event."

"Relying upon the 25 or so entries we receive from the mainland is not enough to make this event commercially viable," continues McGuire.

A continued supporter of the Subaru Safari Tasmania, Burnie's Lynn Rattray says that this year it is impossible for him to enter the Tasmanian ARC round due to his commitment to the third and fourth round of the TRS which in his case, and in the case of many, must take priority.

"I have been wondering how the Subaru Safari was going to be supported from the release of the calendar earlier in the year," says Rattray. "I did not make the decision lightly but our state round must come first."

Adding to the uncertain future of the event, 2006 will be the final year Subaru Australia will provide naming rights sponsorship to the Safari. This is due to the manufacturer's decision to withdraw from the Australian Rally Championship to concentrate its energies on tarmac rally endeavours.  

The 2006 Subaru Safari Tasmania will kick-off with a free-to-see Ceremonial Start on Elizabeth Street in North Hobart on Friday July 14 from 7pm.

Some entries include the Targa Tasmania 2006 dynamic duo Subaru-powered Dean Herridge and co-driver Bill Hayes who currently sit third on the Australian Rally Championship Driver's leader board, Toyota's Neal Bates and his co-driver Coral Taylor who are currently second and Bates' team mate Simon Evans and his co-driver (and wife) Sue who currently lead the Driver's Championship by 12 points.

The 2006 course, held within the stunning Southern Forests of the Huon Valley, is made up of about 520 kilometres. Approximately 180 of those are competitive held over two separate competition heats over two days.

Spectators can see all the rally action from five separate vantage points located within the Huon Valley including one at the Geeveston Super Special Stage at the Kermandie Oval.

For spectator and competition information on the Subaru Safari Tasmania visit the event website www.safaritasmania.com.au <http://www.safaritasmania.com.au>
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