The 2019 New Zealand rally season could hardly have gotten off to a more perfect start at Dunedin’s Otago Rally.
A record field of over 130 entries, near perfect weather conditions and huge international contingent – both competing and spectating – ensured incredible media coverage the world over.
Making his first visit to Dunedin and the Otago Rally, popular WRC commentator, Colin Clark, was left gobsmacked not only by the quality of the field and the world famous roads on offer, but by the legendary welcome he received.
The Scotsman was quickly utilised as a pre-event dinner speaker, a guest commentator, and a voice-over for video updates throughout the weekend.
Not to be outdone, Classic Rally winner, Mads Ostberg, won over even more fans on his second visit to the event.
A trouble-free run in the Rossendale Rally Team Escort RS1800 saw him blitz the field, yet it was the WRC star’s willingness to mingle with fans and embrace the New Zealand experience that won him many more fans.
Frank Kelly didn’t disappoint either. The Irishman’s flamboyant driving style thrilled fans, as did his quick-witted humour throughout a successful weekend in his famous ‘Baby Blue’ Escort.
And that’s not to forget, of course, Kiwi hero Hayden Paddon, who entered the event with the sole goal of setting stage records – a feat he achieved on 9 of the 10 stages that were re-run from previous years.
The only one of the 15 stages that Paddon didn’t win was the tarmac super special stage in downtown Dunedin, when a puncture robbed him of the ultimate clean sweep.
It was my 14th Otago Rally, and every year I’m blown away a little bit more by how much the event’s following, and its professionalism, improves.
The media landscape has changed significantly since my first visit to Dunedin in 2003.
Back then, hard copy magazines and newspapers ruled the media landscape, with the internet having barely made an impact on the traditional forms of media.
Oh, how that has changed in recent years!
In 2019, part of any event’s success is based on Facebook likes, website hits and video views.
Whereas once the masses yearned for lengthy articles giving a blow-by-blow report on the rally, these days a 60-90 second video will suffice for the majority of web surfers.
A good example is an 85 second video we uploaded to our RallySport Mag Facebook page on the Sunday night of the Otago Rally.
Less than 24 hours later, the video had been shared more than 150 times, and had been viewed over 22,000 times. In anyone’s language, they’re good figures.
Where the media landscape will head in the next 10 years is anyone’s guess. One thing we do know, however, is that rallies the world over – the Otago Rally included – will be doing their utmost to keep up with ‘Generation Next’.