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GP Week : Issue 60
>>WRCINSIGHT The same but different: The famous ‘Bunnings’ jumps, far left, won’t be seen in the new-look Rally Oz, but there will be a superspecial, a concept pioneered in WA, left. This time, it will be around a course previously used as a local hillclimb, above. convince the people living in the area of the sincerity of World level rallying, and its compatibility alongside the cherished benefits of country life. Conscious that these ideals could become sensitive issues, the promoters of the east coast event undertook a series of independent surveys, intended as much to allay the fears of people who had not previously lived with this form of motorsport as to alert themselves of issues they had never considered. In the end the state itself issued legislation approving the event on condition that the recommendations of the reports were followed through. All these procedures took time, indeed the final go-ahead for the rally to take place was only granted when the legislation was signed off late in June this year. Over recent years, the format of national Australian rallying has moved on. Local rally cars no longer complied to strict FIA rules, but to rules modified to suit the wishes of both participating manufacturers, and the need to balance the performance of Group N and Super 2000 style cars. Also there are now no locally owned World Rally Cars in the country. Fortunately, there are various FIA-compliant Group N cars available, and the organisers opened up a special category for locally compliant Group N cars, for which three entries were received, one of whom was to be driven by a prizedrive winner Michael Patton. Patton won the nationwide competition run by the Repco Corporation, which, with typically Australian finesse, was promoted under the title “Bloody Big Repco Rally Promotion”. The special news is that the Toyota Auris (or Corolla, as they are known in Australia) Super 2000 cars are expected to be on the start line, following the FIA homologation, effective September 1, of these cars on an Asia Pacific regional level. Super 2000 cars, however, continue to be a little known part of central Australian rally sport, and apart from the two Auris cars only one other of these cars (a VW Polo) has been entered by a local driver. Repco Rally Australia will be a rally of many parts. In addition to the special category for locally modified group N cars, which take part on the event but outside the general classification, there are entries for six drivers who are contesting the shoot-out for the Asia Pacific Pirelli Star Driver award. The winner will then be among the five drivers who will have a fully paid programme of six rounds of the 2010 WRC. These drivers will only contest the Thursday and Friday stages, although one of them has opted to compete on the whole event. All five registered World Championship teams will be present (Munchi’s with a single entry), with Al Qassimi driving a third non-registered BP Ford Abu Dhabi entry. There are 10 entries from registered PCWRC teams, three of them having seconded their entries to local drivers on a one-off basis. Another driver (the provisional championship leader Armindo Araujo) has taken over an entry from another championship team, because the entry level in Australia is expected to be less strong than the expected entry level in the final round (in Britain). There is also a ‘guest’ PCWRC driver for the event, with Neal Bates in a Toyota, which was formerly sponsored by the national importers under local sporting rules, and is now being run by Bates privately. Even if the new style Rally Australia generates only a tenth of the fever that the old events in Perth used to do, it will be a great success. Having this event based in the east coast means much to motor sporting businessmen, who feel that the event has now come into the centre of Australian commercial life. The event is being heavily promoted in the Sydney area, where there are promotional activities on the Sunday and Monday before the event, before the crews travel north to start their reconnaissance. Nearly everything is going to be new; the only traditional feature that the event is expected to retain is the welcome given to visitors from around the world. 41