RallySafe, the company responsible for operating timing systems in the World Rally Championship, has had 70 of its bespoke timing units stolen at one of its bases on the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia.
A van belonging to RallySafe was broken into on the weekend of March 11-13, taking other items along with the 70 timing units. Another company that shares space with RallySafe also had a motorsport trailer stolen in the robbery.
But it’s the timing units that RallySafe is desperate to get back in one piece. Component shortages mean lead times for manufacturing replacements are now well over a year.
They were already waiting on parts to arrive so that a new run of 200 timing units could be manufactured before the robbery occurred.
“That affects hugely in the short term,” Abbey Sims, RallySafe administrative assistant, told DirtFish. “It affects the whole 2022 logistics plan with our calendars for the rest of the year.
“We share units with New Zealand, the US, Canada and Europe. Logistically things are moving around the world at all times, between WRC, ARA, the Canadian championship, South Africa. We have to look at where we can pull units from to fill in the gaps back here; then again we have to disappoint people.
“If we have a weekend in Australia for example where we’ve got three events on, 70 units is a whole rally field for one decent-sized event. So where do we cut corners? Do we cut the event completely or do we lower the field of what we cover; do we drop course cars? There’s lots of things we have to look at.
“But we obviously had plans, which we have here in the office, to send [the stolen units] to Western Australia. But that’s obviously not happening so now we just have to replan around the loss of the 70 units.
We need to make sure – I don't know how – but we just don't want them to be thrown in the river or the oceanAbbey Sims
“It’s a major impact because if we have to ship more things logistically, it’s costing us more money. The chances of things getting damaged, broken, or lost again, is higher because things are moving more frequently.”
It’s unlikely that the WRC or other major series like the European Rally Championship or American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National championship will be impacted directly by the robbery, as the equipment stolen was intended for domestic use in Australia.
RallySafe uses the same equipment across both WRC and ERC, which was being utilized on Rally Serras de Fafe when the Melbourne break-in occurred.
“WRC and ERC are a massive priority,” said Sims. “They have their own units that are shared between WRC and ERC, so we don’t get hold of those very often. They might come home for repairs over the Christmas period or the six-week break in Europe.
“But it may mean that we have to logistically plan around that and see if there’s a gap where we can have the units back in Australia to make events happen.”
It’s also the second robbery RallySafe has experienced in the space of a month. In February its Tasmania headquarters were also broken into, with passports, money, laptops, phones and a diecast rally car collection among the items taken. The electronic devices were later found thrown into a nearby river less than a mile away from RallySafe headquarters.
It’s a fate that RallySafe is hoping doesn’t repeat itself for the irreplaceable timing units stolen last weekend.
“Now our thoughts are that they thought they were power tools and they’ve just thrown them in the car and taken off, not realizing they’re no use to them,” said Sims.
“So we need to make sure – I don’t know how – but we just don’t want them to be thrown in the river or the ocean, somewhere like that.
“If they’ve dumped them, that’s OK, we can hopefully get it to somewhere that someone picks them up and thinks, ‘ah, I’ve seen this the other day in the media’ and contacts someone.”
RallySafe is encouraging anyone who may have information concerning the robbery – which took place on McGregors Drive, Keilor Park, Victoria – or the whereabouts of the stolen units to contact email@example.com or 03 6425 7003.