COFFS COAST (NSW) – The head of champion world rally manufacturer team M-Sport has reaffirmed his support for Rally Australia to continue at the New South Wales north coast tourist haven of Coffs Harbour.
Rally Australia has received a further extension of another year from the WRC Promoter along with a further three-year financial pledge from the New South Wales Government. The 2018 event will be on 15-18 November.
The Coffs Coast-based event has been an fixture on the WRC since 2013 after first being staged at the location in 2011.
Spectator stages for the first day today were heavily populated with ticket sales for three-day FIA World Rally Championship finale surpassing previous benchmarks.
Malcolm Wilson, OBE, the managing director of British-based 2017 driver’s and manufacturer’s champion outfit M-Sport, has thrown his unequivocal support behind the Australian leg remaining at its present location.
“Rally Australia has always been one of the most pro-active events on the calendar and Coffs Harbour has really added to that,” Wilson said.
“The whole town gets behind the event and we are all made to feel extremely welcome year after year.
“If that weren’t enough, we regularly hear the drivers commenting that these stages are some of the best in the world.
“With the teams having to travel long distances from Europe, it’s not easy to match the huge entry numbers that we see at some of the bigger European events, but the hard work from the organisers here has enabled new and exciting drivers to come and compete – just look at Kalle Rovanpera this year.
“The support of the NSW Government is a hugely important factor and it’s these type of relationships between tourism and sport that are vital for the continuation of the championship.
“We all need to work hard to ensure the event stays relevant and exciting, but a move to another part of Australia isn’t necessarily the answer.
“Also the beaches around here are stunning – why would we ever want to move?!”
Yesterday Citroen driver Craig Breen praised the Rally Australia stages, which he is tackling for the first time.
“From what I saw on the recce, I have to say this is one of the most beautiful rallies,” Breen said.
“When you are going through some of the stages, stages like Nambucca, you really do feel like you’re on an adventure. The profile of the road is so nice, but that feeling of an adventure is something that’s missing from some of the other events.”
Rally Australia chairman Ben Rainsford said spectator traffic through the competitors’ service park on Thursday was more than numbers seen in previous years on a weekend.