Leading rally drivers on both sides of the Tasman are calling for a trans-Tasman championship to capitalize on the sport's recent renaissance in New Zealand.
Australians Nathan Quinn, Brendan Reeves and Aussie-based Irishman Richie Dalton have all competed in a significant portion of the New Zealand Rally Championship this season, making the move over the Tasman to tackle the best Kiwi competitors and some of the best rally roads in the world.
The New Zealand championship is thriving, littered with new generation R5 and AP4 cars that look like modern WRC cars, there are strong numbers entered into each of the six rounds of the national championship and WRC star Hayden Paddon has competed in all but one round this year – wrapping up the title with a round to spare at Coromandel last week.
It is more competitive than the Australian championship at present but there is a massive step going from a local championship in this part of the world to competing in Europe as Paddon has found over the years.
A way to bridge that gap and strengthen both championships is to bring them together with part of each individual series comprising a combined championship.
"It is something I have talked about over the last few years," Paddon told The Herald. "I think it is a bit of a no-brainer.
"There is obviously the commercial aspect of it that needs to work to allow it to be financially possible for the competitors in terms of some logistical support and perhaps teams working together to make it possible.
"I think you could have a good championship where you had say three rounds in a row in New Zealand then ship the cars over to Australia for three rounds there – ok probably all on the East Coast.
"If you merged the New Zealand and Australian championships you have more manufacturers, you have lots of good drivers and lots of teams and you bring in that trans-Tasman rivalry and I think it is a no-brainer.
"If all the dots could be aligned it is something we would like to be heavily involved in."
Leading Australian competitor Molly Taylor has been a spectator at an NZRC rally this year and is keen to see work begin on bringing the two championships together.
"We are so far away from the rest of the world and Europe in particular so to have competition at such a high caliber is fantastic," the 2016 Australian champion said.
"If we can help grow the sport in both countries it is something we would all benefit from.
"The speed differential and regulations are very different so it would be tough to do right now but we should definitely be working towards something."
NZRC coordinator Simon Bell said the idea has merit and is something he would be keen to chat to his Australian counterparts about.
"It would be a great way to strengthen both championships and it is something we would be very keen to explore with the ARC."
The final round of the New Zealand Championship is based out of Raglan in mid-October.