PHOTO: Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito is hoisted on to the shoulders of his drivers as they celebrate winning the WRC Manufacturers Championship (Jeremy Rogers pic)
COFFS COAST (NSW) – Bigger crowds, praise from the world’s best drivers and an historic victory brought a highly successful conclusion to Coates Hire Rally Australia on the New South Wales Coffs Coast yesterday.
As hundreds of FIA World Rally Championship teams, officials, media and guests packed up and headed home to Europe, organisers said the 2014 event had taken a significant step forward that would provide a basis for an even better show in 2015 and hopefully beyond.
It was announced by the WRC’s German-based promoters at the weekend that Rally Australia will return next year on 10-13 September for its 24th edition. Additionally, Rally Australia organisers have begun negotiations for 2016-17-18, including a request to stage the event in November as the season finale.
Rally Australia Chairman Ben Rainsford said feedback from the WRC visitors had been extremely positive.
“It was our goal to deliver the Coffs Coast an event truly worthy of its FIA World Championship status and I think we achieved that,” Mr Rainsford said.
“Coates Hire Rally Australia gave the teams what they wanted – a compact footprint, a good service park layout, excellent promotion, community support and attendances and, above all, a fantastic challenge for the world’s best drivers.
“It was gratifying to hear on several occasions drivers including Jari-Matti Latvala, Kris Meeke, Robert Kubica and Australia’s Chris Atkinson say how much they loved the roads, especially the 50km Nambucca stage on Saturday.
“Nambucca is scenically beautiful and fast. Kris Meeke said it was one of the world’s best rally stages and we take that as a compliment considering there are 13 countries and thousands of kilometres of stages in a WRC season.”
Mr Rainsford said it would take several days to get an estimate of spectator attendance because of the number of remote sales outlets used on the stages, but it was clear many more people visited the ticketed and free venues.
“We filled the car parks for two nights at our Hyundai Super Special Stage – which the drivers also praised – and the crowds were several deep at the places in the weekend Rally Villages,” he said.
“Much of the success Rally Australia achieved this year was because it was an annual event for the first time since 2006. After running in alternate years in 2009, 2011 and 2013, being able to return in 2014 – and as we will also in 2015 – has automatically delivered many benefits.
“We have been able to retain key staff and partnerships and develop a financially viable business model, something I expect will be a key consideration in our request for future events.
“Our bid to have the WRC season finale held here has good precedents in past WRC events in Western Australia and the Adelaide grand prix. Imagine the party we would have here on the Coffs Coast and the number of overseas WRC visitors who would want to stay on for a post-season holiday.”
Volkswagen’s historic 1-2-3 finish to claim the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers was the icing on the cake of a great weekend, Mr Rainsford said.
“We congratulate Jost Capito and his Volkswagen Motorsport team on an extraordinary achievement, which we were proud to host in Australia.
“Volkswagen has set the bar high and we look forward to seeing what the other WRC teams can bring to the fight for the championships still to be decided over the remainder of the season.”