MOTORSPORT’S world governing body, the Paris-based Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), has allocated just two rounds of its prestigious international championships to Australia this year.
One event is International Rally of Queensland (IROQ), round four of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship. The other was the recent Formula 1 Qantas Australian Grand Prix.
That introduction makes it easy to understand that the rally, to be staged on the Sunshine Coast on 30 July-1 August, will be a major attraction – and opportunity – for the major tourist region just north of Brisbane.
This has been recognised by the Queensland Government, through its Queensland Events division, and the Sunshine Coast Regional Council, which have committed support to the event for 2010-2012.
IROQ is part of a seven-round championship that also visits China, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia and New Caledonia.
It traditionally attracts some of the best teams and drivers from throughout the region and beyond, including India and sometimes Europe. Spain’s Carlos Sainz won the FIA APRC on his way to becoming World Rally Champion in 1990 and 1992.
With the championship due to start in Malaysia on 24-25 April, IROQ already has confirmed a high-profile entry, the two-car Proton R3 Rally Team and its World Rally Championship drivers Chris Atkinson, from Australia, and Alister McRae, form Scotland.
The presence of Atkinson and McRae, both experienced WRC regulars, and their factory-endorsed British team guarantee IROQ will be followed around the world.
Media coverage will be delivered by the championship’s own television production team, with dedicated programming to networks in more than 55 countries. In Australia, a one-hour show will be broadcast nationally on Network Ten and its digital sports channel ONE HD, with multiple repeats.
Adding to the interest, IROQ in 2010 also will host rounds of the Australian and Queensland Rally Championships and competitions for Classic and All-Comers entries.
More than 70 cars in total are expected to compete, bringing with them more than a thousand crew members, supporters and media from the Asia Pacific region and Australia.
They will contest a Friday night Super Special Stage under lights on the coast, before action moves to the Imbil State Forest in the Mary Valley for traditional gravel special stages across the weekend.
Public and corporate opportunities to see the cars in action and at rest during service breaks will be available at several points on the course.
Although in its second year as an FIA event, IROQ (the re-named Rally Queensland) has been a round of the Australian Rally Championship for 42 years.
Event Director Errol Bailey says its international status capitalises on increased awareness of rallying after the staging of the Repco Rally Australia World Rally Championship round in New South Wales last year – the IROQ organising team provided many of the senior officials for Rally Australia – and provides an outstanding opportunity to widely showcase the Sunshine Coast.
“International Rally of Queensland is the biggest championship rally event in Australia this year and one of the most important in the southern hemisphere. It will attract the cream of driving talent and the latest, fastest cars and put on a show that will dazzle fans with its excitement and spectacle,” he said.
“There’s an ongoing debate about whether rally drivers are better than their circuit-racing equivalents. To me, nothing matches the challenges that rally drivers have to face on an ever-changing course, but with an FIA Formula 1 Grand Prix and an international FIA rally both in Australia this year people will have a chance to make their own judgement.
“However, nobody will be disappointed with what IROQ delivers. Rallying has a fanatical following around the world and the Sunshine Coast has been gifted with one of its star events.
“It’s a huge opportunity and I strongly encourage the residents and business operators on the coast to embrace it and make the most of it.”
The International Rally of Queensland is benefiting from Significant Regional Event Scheme (SRES) funding under the Queensland Events Regional Development Program (QERDP).
The QERDP is an investment program designed to extend the flow of economic and social benefits of events to regional Queensland. The SRES celebrates and supports those events that have a particularly strong track record of growth and economic success for their region.
A state-wide initiative, the program is committed to enhancing existing events in regional Queensland, as well as assisting in the establishment of new events.
Since the QERDP began in 2001, more than $13.6 million has been invested in 645 regional events, an indicator of the important role these events play in their communities and wider Queensland.
Source: Event Release