Back-to-back works for Rally NZ

| Photographer Credit: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Some chance is better than no chance, which may be the thinking at Rally New Zealand as they wait to see if their event will be included on the 2021 World Rally Championship calendar.

The decision to announce only some of the events for next year was an unusual one – even for the FIA – which has left Rally NZ hanging by a thread.

With the likelihood of fewer rallies next year, and several big-name rallies not yet included, many are talking up the chance of a down under double header. It’s happened before, but not often.

“That would be the perfect scenario,” Rally NZ chairman, PJ Johnston said.

“We’re gutted to lose this year’s event, but we’re just facing reality – similar to the situation Rally Australia found itself in last year with the bushfires.

“Of course, we’d love to be back next year, but that’s out of our hands.”

Johnston said that Rally New Zealand had taken a financial hit with the cancellation of this year’s event, with the rally organisers having already spent several hundred thousand dollars to build the Power Stage that was revealed recently.

“I’m sad and disappointed for my team, but at the end of the day, people’s lives come first,” he added.

Rally New Zealand will run a test event in November using new stages that were to have been run in September’s WRC round.

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While much of the world continues to struggle with COVID-19, New Zealand is emerging from the doom and gloom that has been 2020, and motorsport is back up and running.

Rally drivers have been bursting at the seams to get back on the gravel, and many did that in Maramarua Forest recently when they took part in a private test day.

Emma Gilmour ar Whare Flat, Otago

This weekend, those down south get their chance with the running of the Circle Hill Rallysprint near Dunedin, and a capacity field will contest the event.

Emma Gilmour and Jeff Judd head the list of 50 starters.

Further north, entries have opened for New Zealand’s famed Ashley Forest Rallysprint, which will be held on September 19 and 20 this year.

Competitors in the much-anticipate annual rallysprint will complete three qualifying runs on Saturday, and there will be one qualifying run for all competitors on Sunday, before eliminations begin.

The event offers competitors with seven different classes and is expected to be oversubscribed.

* * * * *

Australian rallying returns this weekend with the first round of the NSW Rally Championship on the south coast of the state.

The factory Toyota Yaris AP4s of Harry and Lewis Bates lead a full field of 90 cars that also includes regular NZ visitors Nathan Quinn (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X) and Richie Dalton (Ford Fiesta Proto).

Dalton has won the rally for the past two years, but the inclusion of the works Toyotas will make his job all the more difficult.

Many Australian championship crews are using the rally as a shakedown before their national series commences in Canberra in late September.

The Rally of the Bay offers crews seven special stages over 140 competitive kilometres, and is based in Batemans Bay. It uses traditional coastal roads in hardwood forests, similar to some of the roads used for Rally Australia at Coffs Harbour.

In Victoria, as the second Coronavirus wave spreads through Melbourne’s suburbs, the first rally back is not until September 20 when the state series runs its first of three events. If the spread isn’t contained soon, however, rallying in Victoria may not recommence until much later in the year.

Peter Whitten

Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media.

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