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What happened to rallying in Australia?

A recent post on the Historic Rally Association (HRA) Facebook page has drawn a lot of comment, with the topic having been run up the flagpole on numerous occasions. There’s often a lot of criticism of rallying’s leadership and in my reality, I say that’s unfounded and unfair!

As the question on the HRA page asked, ‘What happened to rallying in Australia?’

In my view, rallying evolved and it survived, despite government intervention, forestry changes and closures, and COVID-19. Rallying is nothing if not resilient in the face of these challenges.

The sport that some wish was “like the good old days” is gone and cannot return. Just like our cricketers now wear helmets, F1 races are decided in the Stewards rooms, HANS devices, 50 metres of roll cages inside your rally car and Bathurst starting at 11:30am instead of 9:30am.

We can remember, and there are great events for our memories to be rekindled, and these are often oversubscribed. These events reprise our cars and our memories and form the framework for today’s competition.

Today, logistical issues that events go through are 10-fold from the old days; from changes to forestry rules, natural disasters, government intervention, insurance, risk and safety and much more.

Our regulatory environments are changing constantly and, most importantly, we have changed too.

Let’s face it. We grew up!

We got married, priorities changed, we changed jobs, we had kids, some lost jobs and for some they lost interest, and the rules that govern the registration for the cars we drive changed too. Have I added enough ducks yet?

We don’t even drive the same cars anymore. Most drive SUVs and dual cab utes with snorkels, driving around in anticipation of being confronted with Condor Creek!

We can blame the rule makers; they have always been the easiest to target and one thing that hasn’t changed is that rallying’s administrators are made up of fellow competitors and officials. It seems mildly stupid and a waste of their time that they would make up rules to prevent people from competing. Pure delusion.

If you think that state rally panels and the Australian Rally Commission meet in secret rooms, hell bent on making it hard for you to compete, you are simply out of touch with today’s reality.

Every person who officiates, bar none, serve to make the sport a better place for rallying.

For you.

It’s your job, not theirs

The progression, promotion and the profile of the sport is everyone’s responsibility; not just those who sit behind a desk trying to create interest in the sport.

Media rooms are fed a daily diet of football, cricket, and other ball sports. It’s easy for them to digest and costs them nothing to procure. Media rooms are full of football and cricket tragics and it takes something special to break into their world.

The continuing struggle for those who promote rallying is to break through and this is a collective responsibility, one that is tough, but can be done.

Make it your 2022 challenge to tell organisers and media outlets your plans. Find the time to do it and support your supporters. The media profile of rallying is a joint responsibility.

Even the biggest events like Rally Australia struggled for team information, those media information sheets often not filled out.

Rally Australia’s commentators’ manual took six weeks to produce – putting it together a marathon effort, to ensure commentators, sponsors and fans were correctly informed. I am sure if they were asked, the media team at Rally Australia could find Harold Holt – after all, they have enough experience!

Promotion is up to every competitor.

I, and fellow commentators, have been bailed up by family members in the commentary box with comments like “Wow, you guys didn’t say anything about XYZ”. Why? We had no information about XYZ!

While commentators are well versed in the sport, they don’t know about every team or sponsor, nor does the media team.

Sadly, most competitors from club to ARC level don’t take the time to take this aspect of the sport seriously. At ARC level you are competing in our premier national championship, run professionally. Be professional! In some sporting codes it’s mandatory.

Invest in your profile, especially at state and ARC level. Your supporters will thank you later.

I can’t afford it

Rallying has and always will be expensive by its very nature, suited to those that can afford to make it happen, and that’s no different for any form of motorsport.

Clubs (that’s you and me BTW) run events to suit most budgets, not all of them rallies. Your cash profile should determine the events you compete in. Rallying is unique in that it allows you to compete at every level. That doesn’t mean you should.

The key to our sport is to enjoy rallying as best you can, compete in a car you can afford rather than one you can’t, and most importantly, support the sport where you can.

Every person in rallying should be a rally ambassador, proud of their sport.

Rallying is nothing if not resilient. 

We have been lucky that events have run, and the last few years have been the hardest years on event organisers.

From fires claiming Rally Australia at the last minute to COVID cancelling events, weather events cancelling rallies that we rescheduled, and most importantly, officials have had to change plans, re-do them, re-plan, re-submit, cancel again and much, much more, spending their own money to just re-do work, often for it to be cancelled again.

Spare a thought for them. They deserve your support more than ever.  

2022 is shaping up to be a great year for rallying with borders reopening and a renewed sense of optimism. New teams, new cars and the need to “send it” strong!

Commentator Shane Jacobson interviews Nathan Quinn at Rally Australia.

Rallying has bucket loads to offer, so make 2022 the year you get out from behind the keyboard, dust off your old memories and go and compete or help.

Be self-honest. Those that are competing today are making it happen, despite some of the doom and gloom put forward by some. They are enjoying what we all know is rallying.

Our sport

Want something to change? Stick up your hand and be part of the system. Start in your club, and you will be welcomed.

Change comes from participation, not observation!

To answer the original question: “What happened to Rallying in Australia?”

We evolved, we survived, we grew, and kept going. Thanks rallying, I knew you could do it.

And to every official, administrator and helper that gives up their time so you can compete, thank you. You are the real sponsors of rallying. Bring on 2022!

  • The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RallySport Magazine.

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Dallas Dogger

Dallas has been involved in rallying for most of his life, originally as a competitor, and more recently working in the media as part of the Rally Australia commentary team. He has also been the Media Manager for many events, including the Rally of Canberra.
Dallas has been involved in rallying for most of his life, originally as a competitor, and more recently working in the media as part of the Rally Australia commentary team. He has also been the Media Manager for many events, including the Rally of Canberra.