Forest fires place Rally Australia in doubt

2019 FIA World Rally Championship Round 12, Wales Rally GB 3 – 6 October 2019 Craig Breen /Paul Nagle Photographer: Austral Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

Kerry’s Paul Nagle and his driver Craig Breen, like the rest of their World Rally Championship colleagues, are facing an anxious wait ahead of this weekend’s Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

Areas around the rally’s Coffs Harbour base are ravaged by bush-fires and already three people have lost their lives.

Organisers of Kennards Hire Rally Australia still hope to go ahead with the closing round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) this week.

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.

Stage set up crews are unable to access the stages and reports coming from Australia say that the recce has already been reduced from two days to just one and will now only take place on Wednesday.

Saturday’s section of the route is most effected but there are also fires in areas where the other two days’ action will pass through.

While nobody wants the WRC season to end in this way, respect has to be shown to the emergency services who are dealing with the fires and to residents along the route.

“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,” a spokesman said.

“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 event last night (Saturday) advised entrants in the national competitions – the CAMS Australian Rally Championship final round, the Rally Australia Cup and the Rally Australia Two-day event – that their events would not proceed.

At this stage entrants have been invited to participate in “demonstration” runs on the Super Special Stage and Raleigh Special Stage.

Those who withdraw have been encouraged to donate their entry-fee refund to the Rural Fire Service.

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