Rally Australia drastically shortened due to bush fires, still may be cancelled
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A drastically shortened itinerary has been proposed for this week’s Australian finale of the FIA World Rally Championship and the event remains under threat of cancellation because of the New South Wales bush fire emergency.
Yesterday afternoon a provisional itinerary incorporating just four stage venues – used multiple times – was issued by the organisers of Kennards Hire Rally Australia in Coffs Harbour. They are awaiting approval from both the FIA and the NSW Government before the rally can go ahead in its much shortened format.
The Coffs Harbour beachfront super special stage and the Raleigh super special stage on a rallycross and kart facility have both been extended in length by adding laps. A third section of gravel road measuring about 8.5km that was formerly part of the Argent’s Hill stage will be used six times – three in each direction — on Saturday.
There are seven stages scheduled on Friday (19.8km), eight on Saturday (63.4km) and four on Sunday (11.1km). There will be 21 stages but just 94km of the originally scheduled 324km route has been retained.
It’s also been proposed to delay the start of reconnaissance till Wednesday and move Thursday’s pre-rally shakedown from the Wedding Bells Forest to the beachfront super special stage.
With the earlier cancellation of the National event running that would have run alongside the WRC Rally it’s likely that about 20 crews will start if the rally goes ahead on Friday.
And because less than 75 per cent of the original rally distance will be completed the WRC final round will only count for half points. That removes much of the opportunity for Toyota to overhaul the 18-point advantage held by Hyundai in the Manufacturers’ Championship standings.
Since the WRC began 1973 seven events have been cancelled and one rally had its results annulled.
Three cancellations came in 1973 as a result of the first Oil Crisis and the 1982 Argentina event was cancelled because of the Falklands War. The most recent cancellation was the planned China event in 2016 due to road damage from flooding.