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Launceston-based trucking magnate, Les Walkden, today confirmed rumours that had been circulating for weeks that he had purchased two of Tasmania’s much-loved tarmac rallies, Rally Tasmania and Rally Burnie.

In announcing the decision to purchase the two events from long-time promoters, Tony and Anne Wright, Walkden said it was time for him to put something back into a sport which he loved.

Well-known Clerk of Course of the WA-based QUIT Forest Rally and the NGK Rally of Melbourne, Ross Tapper, has been appointed to manage the two Tasmanian events in conjunction with key Tasmanian officials. RallySport Magazine understands that key positions in the events will also be held by Geoff Becker and Ian Chesterman, while Anne Wright will be retained for some time to assist in the transition.

The purchase means that Walkden is able to pursue his aim of ensuring that these two events remain in Tasmanian ownership after fears that they may be lost to a large and possibly uncaring corporation.

The trucking giant, however, has had a great deal of input in the careers of such well-known names as Ed Ordynski, Michael Guest and Juha Kangas, by backing them in their Australian Rally Championship campaigns. Cody Crocker is another to have been involved with the Walkden team, winning the Asia Pacific Rally Championship in 2006 in a Walkden-sponsored and built Subaru Impreza.

The Tasmanian was also a regular competitor in self-built Mitsubishi Galant VR4s which he ran in the ARC, and has also assisted son Mark (Blue) Walkden in a Holden Commodore and an Evo Lancer.

MSR Corporate, the new Walkden company which will run the events, are now looking to put all their efforts into Rally Burnie which is scheduled for September 22 and 23 with the aim of developing the event to C1 status, the status that is afforded all Australian Rally Championship events.

According to Geoff Becker, the aim will be to develop the event into a two-day ARC-format event that will encompass at least 100 kilometres of stages on both days.

“This does not imply that the event will be a future round of the ARC, it’s just that Les likes the idea of the two-heat format,” Becker said.

While Becker would not deny that Rally Burnie could be considered as a potential tarmac ARC event, he said that MSR Corporate would not be openly seeking inclusion in the ARC calendar.

“If Rallycorp want to have it as an ARC round, then they will need to approach us,” he added.

A review of Rally Tasmania will be conducted in the coming months to find the most effective format in which to develop the event, which has been a popular one on the tarmac rallying calendar.

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