The more sensitive side of rallying has emerged on the Stannic Great North Rally, the final round of the Stannic National Rally Championship, in the Tzaneen area on October 16 and 17.

Sections of the route have been altered - and traditional special stages utilised in previous years omitted altogether - because of ecologically sensitive areas. In addition spectators on the Stannic Great North Rally will not be allowed into forest areas, except at designated points which will be identified in the rally spectator guide.

"The event passes through areas of the Northern Province which are ecologically sensitive," said route director John Ogden. "We have liaised very carefully with land owners, forestry companies and the Tzaneen Bird Club in identifying these areas, and have made changes to the route to accommodate those areas where the ecology could be disturbed."

Ogden added that a rare Bat Hawk pair bred in trees along the route originally penciled in for a special stage in the Safcol area. The stage has been altered to bypass the trees, with a spectator viewing and parking area moved to another location.

A traditional special stage in the de Hoek forest area will also not be utilised this year. A large portion of the area passes through an indigenous forest, with the area a popular destination for tourists and birdwatchers.

"The only known breeding pair of Black Fronted Bush Shrikes have a nest only 20 metres from the road," Ogden said. "The famous Debengeni Falls are also in the area, and we have agreed not to disrupt access into the region for hikers and tourists.

"We have also identified sections of public roads and special stage routes which in the past have adversely affected residents and farmers, and these areas have either been diverted or avoided this year."

Ogden added that spectator access to any forest area on the Stannic Great North Rally would be forbidden, except where these points are identified in the spectator guide. Spectators will not be allowed to smoke or to light braais in any area in or bordering on forest areas.

"It has been a long and dry winter in the region," Ogden said, "and there is a high risk of forest and grass fires."