Coffs Harbour will continue to host Rally Australia in the season-ending position on an expanded World Rally Championship calendar for 2019.
Next year’s season will be the longest since 2008 with the addition of Chile making for 14 rounds.
All 13 rallies from the current season have been maintained and follow the same order but for the insertion of Chile, which will be held a fortnight after Rally Argentina in mid-May.
Rally Australia effectively maintains the same date in 2019, November 14-17, although it is one of four rallies with a date to be confirmed.
The event’s Chairman Ben Rainsford hailed the announcement that Coffs Harbour would continue to close out the season.
“The season finale is a prestigious spot on the calendar and brings many benefits as the focus on the championship outcome intensifies,” said Rainsford.
“That’s being demonstrated now with huge excitement building around the title decider at the 2018 Rally Australia next month.
“It attracts more spectators, more international rally team members and supporters, more reporters and more holidaymakers, plus a big lift in global media coverage that showcases the Coffs Coast as a tourist destination.
“With the support of the resident and business communities and regional government led by Coffs Harbour City Council, we’ve worked hard to build Rally Australia into an event truly worthy of its world championship status.”
It was also believed that Australia might be twinned with Japan but the latter will not make its return to the WRC calendar next year after all.
The Coffs Harbour event will continue to be supported by the state government’s tourism arm Destination NSW and Kennards Hire as naming rights sponsor.
Australia and Chile, among others, make for five non-European rounds while Kenya is also seeking a place on the calendar.
“We pursue a strategy to further globalise the championship by incorporating more events outside Europe,” said WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla.
“Turkey successfully brought a WRC footprint back to the Asian continent and Chile will prove an equally worthy addition to the 2019 calendar.
“We’re currently experiencing a surging demand from countries worldwide to join the WRC, which is a clear indication of its increasing popularity.
“We want to continue to develop the series over the next years and explore important new markets.”
A number of changes for 2019 were announced alongside the calendar at the FIA World Motor Sport Council, including around cost cutting.
The testing allocation for WRC Manufacturer teams has been reduced from 55 days to 42 days, and the total distance of special stages will now be a maximum of 350km, down from 500km.
There will be a WRC 2 Pro Championship for drivers, co-drivers, and manufacturers, which will apply to registered R5 manufacturers.
The WRC 2 Championship is now therefore reserved for private entrants, with the Junior WRC Championship is unchanged.
While the WRC 3 Championship will not be held, two-wheel-drive competitors will still be welcomed to enter events.
Another change to the sporting regulations concerns car numbering, with factory World Rally Car drivers now allowed to choose their own permanent numbers akin to the system which Formula 1 has employed for the past five years.
The 2019 campaign kicks off in traditional fashion with Rallye Monte-Carlo on January 24-27.
This year’s season continues in Spain on October 25-28 before Kennards Hire Rally Australia on November 15-18.
World Rally Championship 2019 calendar
|7||Portugal||May 30-Jun 2|
|12||Great Britain*||Oct 3-6|
* Date TBC