COFFS COAST (NSW) – FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) drivers and the rally community are striving to raise tens of thousands of dollars for bushfire relief following the cancellation of Kennards Hire Rally Australia this week.
PHOTO: WRC drivers and co-drivers (from left) Nicolas Gilsoul, Thierry Neuville, Jari-Matti Latvala, Kris Meeke and Miikka Anttila visit bushfire fighters at the Coffs Harbour Rural Fire Service base (Bruce Thomas pic)
A host of support initiatives by event organisers was launched almost immediately upon cancellation of the planned WRC season-closing round on the fire-affected New South Wales north coast on Tuesday.
Yesterday, world rally drivers autographed hundreds of unsold souvenirs, which will be donated to fire victims and emergency workers, and auctioned on-line. The first items were distributed at the Rural Fire Service base in Coffs Harbour by drivers Jari-Matti Latvala, Kris Meeke and Thierry Neuville and co-drivers Nicolas Gilsoul and Miikka Anttila.
At a thank-you function for hundreds of volunteer rally officials, six-time world champion Sébastien Ogier announced he would give 10,000 euros ($AUD16,200 approx.) to care for injured wildlife. Ogier’s teammate Esapekka Lappi and new world champion Ott Tänak also attended the event.
Today, Rally Australia presented Red Cross with a donation cheque for $11,000. It was accompanied by a pledge from the owner of four McDonald’s restaurants, Dave Munro, to match donations made on Saturday’s McHappy Day.
Drivers Elfyn Evans, Craig Breen and Teemu Suninen gave their support, along with co-drivers Jarmo Lehtinen and Scott Martin.
Event Chairman Andrew Papadopoulos said the rally community had responded magnificently to the crisis.
“Drivers, team members and other international visitors were deeply affected by their experience here this week and all expressed their desire to help the Coffs Coast community that has welcomed the World Rally Championship since 2011. Australian competitors have also contributed by pledging their entry fee refunds,” he said.
Other rally initiatives for bushfire aid include –
Friday: A thank-you lunch for around 300 emergency services workers and residents affected by the bushfires. Organised by the Rural Fire Service and other emergency service organisations with unused food and beverages provided by Rally Australia.
Saturday: A free concert by rock band Dragon at C.ex Coffs club on Saturday night, with attendees asked to donate to Red Cross.
Sunday: A thank-you lunch for around 300 emergency services workers and residents affected by the bushfires. Organised by the Rural Fire Service and other emergency service organisations with unused food and beverages provided by Rally Australia.
The public can make donations at redcross.org.au.