Otago Rally to proceed, with some changes

A red traffic light will not stop the drivers at this year’s Otago Rally.

Organisers of the event confirmed yesterday it will go ahead with restrictions, even under the Covid-19 Red light setting.

It is scheduled to be held from April 8 to 10.

Event chairman Norman Oakley said after liaising with MotorSport New Zealand and Rally New Zealand, the decision had been made that, at this stage, the event can still run.

"We are pleased to confirm that, subject to any further precautions added to the Red traffic light setting, we believe we can hold this year’s event, with additional safety measures in place to adhere to the new setting," he said.

"If the country remains at Red, we will need to make a number of changes to what we had originally planned. But we are aided by the fact that, by its nature, rallying promotes social distancing, with the competitors spaced at one-minute intervals and the field spread out over many kilometres."

Restrictions would impact on the public facing components of the rally, which is sponsored by the Otago Daily Times.

That would include the ceremonial start, super stage and town hall prize giving.

To compensate, event organisers are exploring ways to share the event better virtually, such as increasing event video, photo and media coverage.

The Rally is the first round of the National Championship, and incorporates the popular Classic and Allcomers fields.

An eagerly anticipated start to the rally season, this year the field will also include guest drivers Olympic rowing champion Hamish Bond and NZ drifting star "Fanga" Dan Woolhouse.

Planning is under way for the event, which has 270km of closed-road competition over 16 stages of fast, mainly public roads.

All participants, including service crews, will be required to carry vaccine passes.

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