WA Opposition launches petition to get WRC back to Perth

Sebastien Loeb at Rally Australia in 2004

West Australian Opposition Leader Liza Harvey has launched a petition seeking to draw the World Rally Championship back to the original home of Rally Australia, Perth.

Rally Australia was dropped from this year’s calendar, although event Chairman Andrew Papadopoulos has suggested that it would return in 2021 as per a draft version of next year’s calendar.

New Zealand, which is back on the WRC calendar in 2020, had alternated with Australia around a decade ago, before Coffs Harbour became established as an annual host region.

Rally Australia’s roots are, however, in the West, having been held in Perth initially as a round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in 1988, and a WRC round in each of the following 18 years.

It left WA when the state government cut funding and eventually moved to Northern New South Wales.

“There was massive public backlash, exacerbated by the fact Rally Australia was a profit making, job creating event that won global recognition as Rally of the Year three times,” reads the petition started by Harvey, the state’s parliamentary Liberal party leader.

“Now is the opportunity to right that terrible decision and secure this event while it is up for grabs.

“Returning this world-class event to WA will again create jobs in local businesses and attract tourists from countries that love the sport, such as the booming economies of China and Japan.

“We are calling on (Premier) Mark McGowan to bring back Rally Australia, and we urge all Western Australians who want Rally Australia back to join the fight and sign our petition.”

Rally Australia was originally set to shift to Queensland, which would have hosted the event for the first time in 2008, but that was called off almost a year out.

Kingscliff, just south of the New South Wales-Queensland border, lasted one year as host after hostile locals threw rocks and forced the abandonment of two stages.

Coffs Harbour, further south on the New South Wales coast, became the new venue in 2011 and held a slot on the calendar continuously from 2013 to 2019.

Last year’s event was, however, cancelled less than a week out due to bushfires which had taken hold in the north of the state, including a blaze around 100km away which claimed two lives in the days prior to the decision.

Competitors and championship officials had also grown frustrated with Coffs Harbour, which is located approximately halfway between Sydney and Brisbane, due to its low spectator turnout, and organisers had even investigated running a small number of stages in Sydney.

Rally New Zealand will be held around Auckland, the nation’s most populous city, on September 3-6.

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