Over the past two weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to have watched two world class motorsport events, and although my opinion may be biased, there’s really no comparison between the two.

My trip on RallySport Magazine’s tour to Rally New Zealand was followed by a visit to the most recent round of the V8 Supercar Championship at Winton in Victoria. The only similarities were that you were watching the best drivers in their respective fields.

I’m a keen V8 race follower, but the racing just didn’t do it for me. Standing next to Jim Richards for the entirety of the race, we exchanged small talk about the set-ups of the various cars and the differing team budgets, but little else transpired to stick in the memory bank.

After the log-jam to get into the first corner and the first one or two hectic laps, the race soon became a procession. Sure, different pit strategies meant that some finished the race on fresher tyres than others, but there was nothing that really made your jaw drop and saw “wow”.

In direct contrast, Rally New Zealand was a start-to-finish extravaganza of on the edge driving, with the result not known until, literally, three corners from the finish.

Rally New Zealand is a unique event, with spectator opportunities in abundance. From virtually every spectator location you can see the cars for a long time – in some instances, for up to five kilometres.

There’s nothing quite like watching a World Rally Car at full pace on gravel. The commitment of the drivers and the power and traction of the cars is simply awesome. Driving styles often vary considerably, and spectators regularly have the stopwatch at the ready to see who’s fastest over fast and flowing, or tight and twisty roads.

Compared to the V8 Supercars, where the cars are driven fast, but straight, and passing is limited, the WRC wins hands down.

Rally New Zealand organisers once again did a brilliant job in organising the event. There’s unlikely to be a closer, more enthralling battle in this year’s championship, yet amazingly, the FIA are considering dropping NZ from the WRC calendar.

After 40 years in the championship, the demise of the event would not only be a crying shame, but it would be a real blight on the World Rally Championship.

Watch any footage from Rally NZ – including the sensational in-car shots available on YouTube – and you’ll see why the event is a real favourite.

Aside from the long-haul flight to get there, the teams, the drivers and the media love it. The roads are the best in the championship and the event almost always provides a thrilling battle to the final special stage.

As one experienced WRC photographer remarked, if the FIA wants a World Rally Championship, then New Zealand must be included. Basing more events in Europe, at the expense of those down under, does nothing for the championship.

Dropping Rally New Zealand from the WRC would be like Monaco missing out on a round of the Formula 1 World Championship.

The French-based FIA have made some bewildering decisions in their time. Let’s hope this is not one of them.
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