Adelaide – once the home of Formula 1’s Australian Grand Prix – has emerged as a genuine contender to host the World Rally Championship the next time it visits Australia.
The South Australia state government is coming under pressure to bring world-class competition to the region after it ditched its Supercars round along with high-profile cycling and tennis events.
Rally Australia, which didn’t run due to the bushfires in 2019, is not expected to return to the New South Wales coastal town Coffs Harbour where it has been based in recent years. Instead, an NSW shift to Bathurst near the Blue Mountains had been on the cards for the event’s expected 2021 return.
Adelaide is now understood to be ready to fight for the right to host a WRC round for the first time – but that battle could become a three-way scrap with Victoria recently announcing a AUS$100million major events fund, which would be more than enough to land a multi-year deal with WRC Promoter.
Tim Possingham is the organizer of Australia’s biggest asphalt rally – the Adelaide Rally – and he says South Australia makes a good case.
“For all the reasons the Adelaide Motorsport Festival and Adelaide Rally works — and why the Adelaide Grand Prix was a success — a WRC event in Adelaide would also work,” said Possingham.
“We have the proximity factor that no other capital city has. At the same time, the approach of the government and South Australia Tourism Commission to support more, smaller events, is a good strategy.”
With this year’s event cancelled due to coronavirus and next year being skipped for related travel reasons, Motorsport Australia chief executive Eugene Arocca is determined to see world-class rallying back.
“Motorsport Australia wants to see the rally in this country under any circumstances,” said Arocca.
Despite no end of rumors about a Mount Panorama base, those close to Rally Australia admit there’s been little progress.
“Nothing is signed with Bathurst,” one source told DirtFish. “It seems everybody in Europe is talking about it like it’s a done deal, but maybe they forgot to tell folk down here… from what we can see getting a few states battling over the chance to host a WRC round is a good thing for the rally and for the sport.”
A maiden WRC outing in Adelaide would feature gravel mileage in the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley and Fleurieu Peninsula. It would also return the FIA’s highest-level competition to the city for the first time since F1 shipped out to Melbourne in 1996.