Planning starts for next year’s Otago Rally

Hopes to stage the Otago Rally later this year have been dashed and planning has begun for next year’s event.

The rally was set to be run early last month and had attracted more than 100 drivers and crew but it was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Motorsport New Zealand announced yesterday the New Zealand Rally Championship had been cancelled for the year.

The first two rounds of the championship in Otago and Whangarei had already been postponed because of the virus while the remaining events were unlikely to be sustainable because of self-isolation rules.

Long lead-in times needed to organise events, coupled with the need for the country to tighten its belt due to the economic impact of Covid-19, were major factors in cancelling the remaining rallies.

Otago Rally spokesman Roger Oakley said there were some initial thoughts the rally could take place later in the year.

But an enormous amount of planing and commitment was needed and there was no guarantee it would even go ahead or be supported so it was decided to move on.

Planning has already started for next year’s event, likely to again be scheduled for April.

He said organisers had been hugely heartened by the support and understanding of funders, sponsors, competitors and fans.

"The rally committee has already resolved to make a greater effort than ever for 2021. We will likely be the first event of the championship, and want to do as much as possible to be part of kick-starting the sport back into action," he said.

The WRC New Zealand Rally, set for Auckland in early September, has not yet been cancelled.

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