Rally NZ bosses propose plan to retain WRC

Finland's Mikko Hirvonen completes the 2012 Rally of New Zealand. Photo / Greg Bowker
Finland's Mikko Hirvonen completes the 2012 Rally of New Zealand. Photo / Greg Bowker

Rally New Zealand organisers have withdrawn their bid to host the World Rally Championship event in 2014 in favour of Australia in order to initiate a new concept allowing both nations to stage the WRC round for three years in succession.

The popularity of the sport has resulted in the FIA deciding to share the Championship to some countries on a biennial basis, which has resulted in Australia and New Zealand hosting every other year.

"The problem is this has just not worked,'' said Rally New Zealand chairman Peter Johnston. "The lack of continuity has significantly affected the commercial viability and our ability to resource the event with skilled personnel to a world class level.''

In order to provide a more sustainable model with continuity of profile and interest, Rally New Zealand has raised the concept of replacing the current format with one that would see a three year-term in Australia followed by three years in New Zealand.

"While the World Rally Championship promoters are focused on the short term, and are therefore not in a position to agree to the suggestion at this time, it has provided a platform for some constructive discussions. We hope this will lead to future WRC events in both Australia and New Zealand being run to a high standard and inspiring commercial partners, competitors and the public alike to support the event.''

The calendar for the 2014 season is due for release early this month.

Mr Johnston said sponsors had struggled to leverage their investment on a year-on, year-off basis, while it proved too challenging to retention and re-training key volunteers in what is a significantly technical sport.

"So we have come up with the concept of each country staging the event for three years at a time. It is a fair time for sponsors to maximise branding and gain a return on their investment. We can build a solid marketing base to develop public interest and we can retain a high level of expertise to run the event.

"We are competing with other international venues in the WRC that receive significant central and local government support. We hope that this new structure would enable us to attract levels of government support that are in line with the international status of the event and the financial investment that the WRC enjoys around the globe.''

Rally New Zealand is arguably this country's longest running international event that forms part of a bone fide world championship. The event, which has been run for more than 40 years, was first included as a round of the World Rally Championship back in 1977.

- APNZ

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