REPORT ON THE STATE OF RALLYING
Presented by Arthur Abraham, Rally Management CC 6 August 1998
Rallying in South Africa is going from strength to strength.
With the advent of Stannic's sponsorship of the South African Rally Championship this year the sport has taken on new dimensions.
The objective of the MSA National Rally Commission, Rally Management CC and Stannic is to elevate rallying to the premier spot in South African motorsport and we believe that we are well on the way to realising this objective.
With five events run to date and the Stannic Fleet Management Rally a week away interest in the championship is running high.
The MSA National Rally Commission's vision in adopting the international Group A 'kit car' and Group N formats is paying dividends.
Competition in all categories is fierce with only one point separating championship leader Serge Damseaux and Jannie Habig in Class A8. Youngsters such as JP Damseaux and Hergen Fekken have put on some sterling performances in the other Group A classes.
The long awaited return to competition of the Daewoo team of Sarel van der Merwe and Enzo Kuun on next weekend's Stannic Fleet Management Rally is likely to set the cat amongst the pigeons and upset the balance of power in the championship.
Unconfirmed reports have two other manufacturers taking a very serious look at rallying in Class A8 in 1999 and beyond and we are doing everything in our power to encourage their participation. In Group N the return to the fray by such well known names as Hannes Grobler, Schalk Burger and Wiley Harrington has served to pit the 'old guard' against the 'young Turks' such as Allen Worms, Richard Behm and Dean Sanders to name but a few.
Entries in the Group N category continue to grow and we believe that this affordable category will evolve into the backbone of South African rallying and serve as a breeding ground for new talent in the future.
The lack of entries in the Stannic Bakkie Challenge has been a great disappointment given the low cost of participation, spectacle and public interest.
Toyota, Doug Kemsley and Topcar's efforts in promoting this category have not gone unnoticed and we appreciate their support and dearly wish that more manufacturers would rise to the challenge that this important category offers. Spectator interest has been unprecedented when compared to previous years and this is due entirely to the heightened awareness in rallying brought about by the marketing and promotional efforts of Stannic, the manufacturers, other event sponsors and organising clubs.
Press and magazines are devoting more and more space to rallying, radio is making considerable airtime available and television accounts for 27 hours of coverage domestically and over 50 hours in 40 countries internationally.
The vital role of the media in generating this awareness and following cannot be underestimated and we sincerely thank everyone of you for the contribution you have made to our success to date.
Increased spectator interest and attendance at spectator stages has resulted in increased risk for all concerned and we have moved to address the issue of spectator safety with immediate effect.
In future added steps will be taken to create safe spectating zones, introduce more crowd control marshals and make use of a Safety Car, fitted with a public address system, which will travel through special stages to ensure that spectators are in safe zones.
An example is next weekend's Stannic Fleet Management Rally where over 2km of barrier fencing will be used to demarcate safe spectating zones on spectator stages located at Innesfree Park and the Expo Centre, Nasrec.
Similar measures will be taken at The Waterfront in Cape Town when three spectator stages on the Agip Rally will be run almost in the heart of the complex which attracts 20 million visitors annually and never less than 40 000 visitors on any given day.
Relationships with the organising clubs is stable and we have now achieved a mutual understanding of the sporting and commercial elements of rallying and innovative proposals, such as the indoor special stage at the Expo Centre next week are readily accepted by all concerned.
The format of events is always a sensitive issue and there has to be a balance between the commercial and sporting needs whereby the sponsor benefits are exploited to the maximum without detracting form the sporting element. We feel that this balance has been achieved and can be sustained for the future benefit of rallying.
With regard to the future
Stannic has confirmed its sponsorship of the eight event 1999 South African National Championship as well as the three regional championships and we value their support and commitment to the sport and our objectives. With Stannic's support we intend providing privateers and newcomers with increased incentives in the form of travelling money. Sasol and Volkswagen have confirmed their continued support for the individual events they sponsor and it is almost assured that Agip will continue its support of the CPMCC event in the Western Cape in 1999.
It is our aim to introduce, with the blessing of the MSA National Rally Commission, a 'one make category' within the Group N Championship, much along the lines of the VW Engen Polo Classic Cup, which would be an entry level category aimed at attracting newcomers to the sport. Negotiations with a manufacturer are at an advanced stage for this exciting project.
Development will be addressed with the short term objective being to consolidate the activities of the clubs in the various regions and to introduce a coordinated National programme aimed at developing organisational skills. Development at a competition level in rallying is not as simple or cost effective as it is in the case of circuit racing. However the medium term objective is to introduce navigator clinics and, who knows, possibly a rally driver's school. Discussions are underway with MSA and African rally organisers with the view to our extending our marketing activities into the continent to help bolster the sport and to encourage cross-border participation.