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Teams, drivers and co-drivers, championship organisers and event officials helped those left reeling by fires near Coffs Harbour in New South Wales after Kennards Hire Rally Australia was called off on Tuesday.
A host of support initiatives were launched in the rally’s host town to raise money to help victims and provide support for stretched emergency services fighting the flames in the countryside north of Sydney.
WRC stars autographed team clothing, racesuits and unsold souvenirs to be donated to fire victims and emergency workers and auctioned online.
The first items were distributed at the Rural Fire Service base in Coffs Harbour by Toyota Gazoo Racing drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke, Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville and co-drivers Miikka Anttila, Sebastian Marshall and Nicolas Gilsoul.
Newly-crowned world champion Ott Tänak, Citroën Racing’s outgoing champion Sébastien Ogier and team-mate Esapekka Lappi attended a thank you function for hundreds of local volunteer rally officials.
A cheque for $11,000 was presented to Red Cross by Rally Australia officials, supported by M-Sport Ford drivers Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen, co-drivers Scott Martin and Jarmo Lehtinen and Hyundai’s Dani Sordo and Craig Breen.
Other bushfire aid activities included a thank you lunch for 300 emergency services workers and residents evacuated from their homes using food donated by the four manufacturer teams and rally organisers.
A concert by rock band Dragon will be held in the rally service park this weekend with attendees asked to donate to Red Cross.
Private donations added to the fundraising, which also includes support for wildlife, while teams contributed further by pledging their rally entry fee refunds.
WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla said the WRC family wanted to help the Coffs Harbour community after being affected by the terrible events unfolding while preparing for the rally.
“What we have seen in Coffs Harbour and New South Wales in the past few days goes beyond sport. We have seen human tragedies and people have lost their homes and their lifetime possessions to the flames.
“All these people are first in the championship’s thoughts. It’s a terrible time for a community which has made us so welcome over the years.
“I hope the efforts of everyone connected with the rally and the WRC have provided solace, as well as expressing gratitude to the brave heroes of the Rural Fire Service and emergency services who have worked so hard over the last few days,” he added.