The Rally of Australia, final round of the 2019 World Rally Championship, has been cancelled due to the forest fires that are ravaging the New South Wales region of the country, which was hosting the event. Organizers announced the decision on Tuesday, just 48 hours before the start of the race which was scheduled to take place from the 14th to the 17th of November.
Event chairman, Andrew Papadopoulos, has said cancelling the Rally of Australia was the only reasonable solution given the extreme seriousness of the situation. Supporting his decision he reminded the public that the entourage that surrounds this kind of event is made up of up to a thousand people including team personnel, officials and other support staff.
“Considering the best interests and safety of everyone involved in the rally, and of course the wider community, it is not appropriate to conduct the rally (…)” – event chairman Andrew Papadopoulos said in a statement- “(…) Our thoughts are with the New South Wales community, especially the people who have lost loved ones, livelihoods and homes as a result of the fires.” – he concluded-.
The flames have also taken the lives of three people so far and have caused tremendous material and ecological damage with numerous residents having to leave their homes as a result. The venue of the Rally of Australia in Coffs Harbour, a coastal city in New South Wales, is bracing for extreme fire danger. Faced with this immediate threat, the organisation could not guarantee the safety of the participants or the public attending the event.
On Monday, a day before the scheduled start of the race, a solution offering an alternative, shorter itinerary, was put on the table in a desperate attempt to try and save the race. This would have consisted of 94 kilometres, against the initial 324, and would have extended over the same four days that were originally planned.
Just 24 hours after issuing that proposal for the Rally of Australia, however, the situation had worsened considerably, forcing organisers to abort it as well. The season has thus ended in this very unexpected and tragic way. The End of Year Gala, which was to take place next Monday at the National Maritime Museum of Australia, in Sydney’s spectacular Darling Harbour, has also been cancelled.
Hyundai gets joyless Constructor’s title
Although Ott Tänak had secured his crown in Spain, the Constructors’ title was still at stake. At the head of the standings was Hyundai with just eighteen points more than Toyota. That short distance between the two teams had everyone longing for a vibrant duel in Australia. Nature, in the end, has had the final say in this season’s WRC, handing its first-ever title to the team from Alzenau in a way that none of its members expected.
Ultimately, the i20 Coupé WRC of Thierry Neuville, Craig Breen and Dani Sordo; the Yaris of Ott Tänak, Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke, as well as the rest of the contestants and their machines, have not started their engines. The brand-new WRC 2019 champion, who recently announced his signing with Hyundai for 2020, will not be able to say goodbye after the last race, as he would have liked. Also, the Rally Catalonia was his last under the orders of Tommi Makinen.
Images of ‘Rally Australia’: WRC.com