WORLD RALLY HEADS HERE
By Steve Spinks
KYOGLE may be the venue of the biggest sporting event ever to hit the Northern Rivers if plans are approved for the Shire to host some stages of the Australian round of the World Rally Championship next year.
While the rally itself will probably be based on Queensland's Gold Coast, more than half of the competition stages will be held on dirt roads around Kyogle, which could bring millions of tourist dollars to the district.
"Basically it's all subject to approval by the Kyogle Shire Council," Garry Connelly, organising committee chairman for Rally Australia, said.
"We are working closely with the council. We've met with the full council once and with administration twice.
"We have yet to give them the exact details of the route, but they, and we, are very enthusiastic."
With a dearth of suitable rally roads in south-eastern Queensland, organisers were forced to look at northern New South Wales and they liked what they found.
"There is a total of 360km of special stages (dirt road stages) in the Rally," Connelly said.
"Around 260km of that will probably be around Kyogle or northern NSW.
"From a tourism point of view, the area is fantastic for television coverage because it is very scenic and picturesque.
"The roads are challenging but mostly smooth and twisty and Kyogle is a great little town."
In the plans, Kyogle will host a remote service centre, which will allow cars that have picked up damage during the event to be patched up so they can continue.
Connelly, who has been involved in motor sport for 25 years, was the driving force behind Perth hosting a WRC event from 1989 to 2006.
"The event attracted millions of dollars to Western Australia," Connelly told The Northern Star. "It pulled in between $10.5 million and $22 million per year to the State.
"I was just at a WRC event in Germany and they had something like 200,000 people attending. "Sixty per cent of those people were from neighbouring countries.
"The beauty of Kyogle is that the train goes there from Sydney, and it's within a day-and-a-half drive from Victoria, a day from Canberra and Sydney, and a few hours from Brisbane and the Gold Coast."
Already some experts within the sport are declaring the Kyogle stages could be the fastest WRC events on the calendar, with high top-end speeds and huge jumps.
However, final approval needs to be made. "We're enthusiastic about the proposal," Kyogle Shire Council general manager Arthur Piggott said.
"We're yet to obtain a formal application with all the details yet and we need to work out how to handle road closures.
"But we've been told that the organisers have made arrangements with people disadvantaged by road closures in the past in Perth.
"They approached us because in the past we have had a rally group from the Gold Coast using the western part of the shire.
"The matter has yet to go before council, but we've had presentations from them and I believe it's likely it will go ahead."
Confirmation of the event is expected in the next couple of months.