WRC Rally Australia may be "significantly shortened" due to bush fires
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The New South Wales bush fire emergency looks set to have a major impact on the final round of the World Rally Championship which is scheduled to start on Friday.
The NSW fires include several locations to the west and northwest of the Coffs Harbour rally base.
During the weekend Kennards Hire Rally Australia organisers announced the cancellation of the national event that was scheduled to run directly behind the 22-strong field of WRC entries.
So far, no changes have been announced to the itinerary of the WRC finale but during the weekend all access was prohibited to forest areas around Coffs Harbour, leaving officials unable to continue pre-rally preparations.
Rally officials issued a statement last night updating the situation.
"The rally is consulting with emergency services, authorities and the local community about the evolving fire situation in the region, but hopes to stage the WRC season finale on a significantly shortened course.
"Rally Australia’s thoughts are with the NSW community, especially the people who have lost loved ones, livelihoods and homes as a result of the fires in northern NSW.
"Public safety is our uppermost consideration in planning for Rally Australia next week. We will provide further information about any revised plans as it becomes available."
The key deadline comes on Tuesday morning when the WRC crews are scheduled begin their two-pass reconnaissance timetable ahead of the rally.
If access remains prohibited at that point it’s likely there will be significant changes to the rally route and timetable, or potentially cancellation of the event.
By cancelling the national event – which had about 60 entries – there is the possibility of the WRC event using any accessible roads for more than the traditional two pass format.
The 2019 WRC Drivers’ title was won by Toyota’s Ott Tanak (Estonia) at the Spanish round last month. But the Manufacturers’ title remains in-play with Hyundai Motorsport holding an 18-point advantage over Toyota Gazoo Racing.
A large contingent of New Zealand enthusiasts is planning to travel to Coffs Harbour this week to support Hayden Paddon and co-driver John Kennard. The Kiwi duo have joined the M-Sport Ford Rally Team for the final event of the season.