The East Coast of Australia will have two international rally events in 2011, APRC Rally of Queensland north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast and WRC Rally of Australia moving south to Coff’s Harbour. Current APRC co-driver’s champion Ben Atkinson supports the move.
FROM COFF’S COAST ADVOCATE written by Matt Deans
AS Coffs Harbour rides a wave of enthusiasm after winning the right to host the 2011 FIA World Rally Australia, more of the country’s leading drivers have welcomed the news.
World Rally Circuit regular Chris Atkinson and his brother Ben – a four-time co-winner of the Asia Pacific circuit – are among the elite Aussie drivers pencilling Coffs Harbour into their race agendas.
“I think it’s a great move to run Rally Australia at Coffs Harbour,” Ben Atkinson said.
“Even though I live on the Gold Coast and the Tweed is closer to home, from a driver’s perspective Coffs Harbour will offer a more compact rally.
“This will cut the travel time to the tracks, which is great for drivers as well as spectators.”
Ben has just returned from the World Rally de France, where he and brother Chris compiled “gravel notes”, all-important track information used by competing WRC drivers.
Last year Ben and fellow team driver Cody Crocker enjoyed a third place finish in the Production Car World Championship round at Kyogle.
Despite their team MotorImage pulling out of the Asia Pacific Rally Tour, Ben said he hoped to rejoin brother Chris racing the Coffs Coast’s forested tracks next September.
“Competing at Coffs Harbour next year is definitely a focus. Racing at a World Rally event on home soil is certainly a career highlight,” he said.
Even though the rally is still 334 days away, the enthusiasm locally is building.
Coffs Harbour Council is already talking up the expected spin-offs.
Mayor Keith Rhoades said the deal to relocate the rally took just three months to arrange after the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport Ltd (CAMS) approached the council.
“Council threw its support behind this event without hesitation – we voted unanimously as a council to work towards securing this event – but it’s been really amazing to witness the enthusiasm from the community,” Cr Rhoades said.
“CAMS has made clear that with 24 countries bidding for just 13 stages, it was not certain that the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) would even hold the event in Australia in 2011, so we’re very aware of the responsibility we have to make sure it’s a resounding success.
“We’re talking a global event, seen by 53 million people that will bring 20,000 people to the area.
“The immediate and long-term benefits to this community are enormous.”
The economic boost for Kyogle last year was independently assessed at $27 million.