How rallying is adjusting to COVID-19

New Zealand might be nearly out the other side of the Coronavirus pandemic, but for the rest of the world, it’s still a struggle with countries like Australia battling the dreaded ‘second wave’.

From a rallying point of view, we’re starting to get an idea of what the impact of COVID-19 is having on the sport, and what that looks like towards the end of 2020, and into 2021.

The opening round of the European Rally Championship was held last weekend, with Rally di Roma Capitale the first FIA international-level event to run since lockdown restrictions eased in certain countries.

It meant that everyone involved in the event had to adhere to social distancing, were seen wearing face masks, and that temperature testing was commonplace throughout the rally.

Rally di Roma Capitale

Watching the podium presentation was a little confronting as the winners sprayed their champagne behind protective masks, while the similarly adorned promotional girls looked on (presumably smiling under their masks!).

It really is the new world order.

Australia’s return to state championship rallying earlier in July didn’t require facemasks, but every competitor was temperature checked before the start, and spectators were ‘discouraged’, rather than being banned.

Speaking of Australia, their governing body has again re-jigged the national championship calendar as they try desperately to provide the opportunity to crown an Aussie champ for 2020.

Originally it was a six-round championship, then it was down to four, and now, with Victoria’s dire COVID struggles, it has been reduced to a two rally shoot-out in South Australia and the ACT in October and November.

That’s provided that case numbers ease in the coming weeks and months.

Australia’s problem is that state borders are currently closed, meaning that competitors aren’t legally allowed to go interstate to compete, even if they wanted to, unless they quarantine (at their own expense) for 14 days on entry.

Clearly this is an unsatisfactory situation for a non-professional sport. Without the option for everyone to compete, then the only hope for the series to run this year is for restrictions to ease, which is currently viewed as a long shot.

Motorsport Australia should be given credit for trying to keep the show on the road, but whether that’s successful is something that we’ll only know in the fullness of time.

Motor Sport New Zealand cancelled their national rally championship back in early May.

Electric dreams

Hayden Paddon got the internet humming last weekend when he released photos of the electric motor and battery sitting snugly in his new Hyundai Kona electric rally car.

Hayden hopes to have the car ready for testing soon, but in the meantime, he’s been promoting his popular online rally series, which has its final round this weekend.

Competitors will need to be committed though, with a three-day event that takes in both the Whaanga Coast stage from New Zealand, and his WRC-winning rally stage, El Condor, in Argentina.

For those who are so inclined, it’s providing a great opportunity to show their simulator skills, with some even beating the multiple New Zealand champion in his own series!

Hunt joins Paddon at Catlins Rally

New Zealand Rally Champion, Ben Hunt, will join Hayden Paddon as a headline entry in next week’s 20th anniversary Catlins Rally in the South Island.

Leaving his factory Subaru WRX at home, Hunt will drive a Subaru Impreza H6, a 6 cylinder, normally aspirated, 4-wheel-drive car.

“They are a cool little package,” Hunt said. “It takes me back a bit to nimble cars. They are not the most powerful, but they are a lot of fun.

“Of course, I am originally from the South Island, hailing from Nelson, so it is cool to go back to the South Island. I can’t wait.”

Paddon has entered his NZRC-winning Hyundai i20 AP4 in the rally and will be the man to catch.

Other big name drivers on the entry list include Matt Summerfield (Mitsubishi Mirage), Marcus van Klink (Mazda RX8), Brian Green (Ford Escort RS1800), Dean Buist (VW Golf GTi) and Josh Marston in his Holden Barina AP4.

Over 80 entries have been received for the rally, will runs on Saturday, August 8

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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