While the New Zealand Rally Championship is in hibernation until 2020, the Australian series is pushing forward with a compact four-event program.
With it, comes the perfect opportunity for New Zealand teams to head across the Tasman to try and emulate what their countryman, Possum Bourne, did a record seven times in a row.
Motorsport Australia have scheduled four events over an eight-week period from the end of September until the end of November, making it easier than ever for a Kiwi team to contest a full national championship in a foreign country.
Favourite son, Hayden Paddon, has already shown interest in being involved in the championship, but like everyone else, he needs to find the funds to commit to a program.
There’s bound to be interest from several other New Zealand teams as well, which puts the ball in the Australian Rally Championship’s court to facilitate any competitors keen to get involved.
Not surprisingly, Motorsport Australia would relish the chance to have overseas entries in the series.
“We’d certainly welcome any New Zealanders interested in competing in the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship this season,” Michael Smith, Director of Motorsport and Commercial Operations at Motorsport Australia said.
“A lot of water still has to flow under the bridge, including the loosening of borders and whether a proposed ‘travel bubble’ between New Zealand and Australia becomes a reality.
“Of course, this just won’t apply to drivers, co-drivers and teams, but also to their cars and equipment – any long delays in transit may make it logistically not possible for them to compete here.”
It could be the perfect opportunity for a young, up-and-coming driver, such as Jack Hawkeswood, to spread his wings. Having contested the Asia Pacific Rally Championship final in China last November, the Aucklander would benefit greatly from a quick stint in Australia. As would several others.
More than anything else, for drivers who wish to eventually head to Europe, the four Australian rallies would provide a wide array of road conditions and styles of roads.
The four rallies, in the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales are all vastly different, and would be the perfect training ground for pace-noting, driving training, and to experience road conditions not seen in New Zealand.
“We would encourage and warmly welcome any of those crews interested in competing to flag their interest with Motorsport Australia,” the Australian Rally Championship’s media manager, Paul Riorden, added.
So, the carrot has been dangled. We now wait and see if any New Zealanders will take up the offer.
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The North Island rally series that has been rumoured for some weeks is getting closer to becoming a reality, with a decision likely to be made in the coming days.
The Ultimate Rally Group, which runs New Zealand’s Targa rallies and the bi-annual Silver Fern Rally, are behind the idea, which would run under the auspices of the Australian Auto Sport Alliance (AASA).
Talk Motorsport understands that the new championship would become an annual event, not simply a one-off. The idea for the new championship quickly gathered steam after the cancellation of the 2020 New Zealand Rally Championship