Australian and NZ rally teams must play the waiting game

| Photographer Credit: Geoff Ridder

New Zealand rally crews have been left in a state of flux with the most recent country-wide lockdown due to the impact of the Delta strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the end, the cancellation of the Coromandel Rally was inevitable, but it’s fair to say that two weeks ago the thought of the event not running was the furthest thing from everyone’s mind.

Like death and taxes though, it seems that a global pandemic is something that we have no control over, and when the federal government shuts the gate, there’s nothing we can do to change their minds.

Hayden Paddon clinched the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship at the last round in Hawke’s Bay, but there are still other places on the podium still up for grabs, over many categories.

Those in contention will be eager for a solution to be found soon.

Series organisers are now working hard to try and find a suitable replacement event to run as the fifth and final round.

“Due to the nature of the Jacks Ridge event and differing regulatory restrictions, it won’t be Jack’s Ridge, but we’ve got a few options we’re looking in to,” NZRC series co-ordinator, Blair Bartels, said.

“At this stage, all we can commit to is we want to make a decision as early as feasibly possible to give competitors as much time as possible to change plans.”

That will all be under the caveat of “COVID willing” though. This Delta variant of Coronavirus is a nasty, silent spreader and we’re all at the mercy of its progression.

If nothing else, the NZRC have a little time on their side to try and pull it all together.

* * * * * *

Coffs Harbour local, Nathan Quinn, raises the Rally Australia dust in the WRC round
Coffs Harbour local, Nathan Quinn

Things are looking even more dire over the Tasman in Australia, with major concerns that the ARC will reach its conclusion in November.

The championship’s next round is in South Australia in mid-October, however, the SA state government have been one of the strictest in the country in terms of border controls.

With the NSW wave showing absolutely no signs of slowing down – and with over 800 new cases of COVID every day – it’s seems highly unlikely teams will be able to head to SA in a little over a month’s time.

The final two rounds are in Coffs Harbour on consecutive weekends in November, but they too would only be a 50% chance of taking place as it currently stands.

Only two rounds of the ARC have so far been run this year, in the ACT and Queensland.

The goal of opening up the country when 70% of the population has been fully vaccinated still stands, but that won’t happen until later in the year.

It means that at some stage in the next month, ARC organisers will need to make a call on whether the 2021 season can continue.

Eighteen months into the pandemic, we don’t seem to be any better off ….

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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