There have been some ridiculous comments made about Rally Australia over the past week, headlined by Toyota boss Tommi Makinen, who suggested the event finished in “the middle of nowhere”.
To be fair to Tommi, he wasn’t suggesting that Rally Australia shouldn’t be a round of the World Rally Championship, just that the final round of the season should be somewhere else.
Yet that decision is really out of the event’s hands. Sure, they came up with the idea of an end-of-season gala dinner to conclude the season, but in reality, that could be held anywhere.
What’s been getting on my nerves is the constant talk that the event doesn’t have enough spectators.
This may or may not be the case – depending on your point of view – but in an age when every (yes, every!) stage of the championship is streamed live on the internet, does this even matter?
There’s talk of the championship heading back to Africa. As popular as this may be to the hardcore rally fan, do we really think that spectator numbers will be any higher there?
Back in New Zealand there’s the constant ‘Rally Australia bashing’ that gathers momentum around this time every year, as rally fans bemoan the fact that they haven’t had a round of the WRC since 2012.
I’d like nothing more than for the WRC to make an annual trek to NZ and to see the latest spec WRC cars weaving their way along the greatest rally roads in the world.
But it’s wrong to blame Australia for New Zealand’s omission.
The New South Wales government are putting mega bucks into Rally Australia to ensure Coffs Harbour hosts the event every year.
Western Australians grizzle that the event was better when it was held out of Perth, but their government let it go.
Similarly, the New Zealand government has had plenty of opportunities to put their weight behind Rally New Zealand and get the WRC back again – but they’ve decided against it.
So, while you’re disappointed that Australia has ‘stolen’ the event, don’t blame the Aussies.
Rather, why not embrace the event? Rejoice in the fact that there’s still a WRC round so close to home, that you can spend $600 on an airfare to go and see it, rather than $2000 to travel to the other side of the world.
No, Rally Australia is not Rally New Zealand. The roads, the spectating and the experience is totally different.
But the Rally Australia organisers are doing a great job, and they deserve our support, not our condemnation.