There’s no way around this one, is there? The view from the service park at last week’s Kennards Hire Rally Australia really wasn’t the one we wanted. It was one nobody wanted.
Losing the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship to state-wide bushfires was a disappointment. We missed the finale of the manufacturers’ title fight and the culmination of what would have been a fantastic squabble for fourth in the drivers’ standings.
But it was nothing by comparison to what many of the New South Wales population lost.
To see teams starting to dismantle the Coffs Harbour service park on Tuesday afternoon was a surreal experience. But the decision, the correct decision, the only decision, was taken.
What came out of that was the response from the wider WRC community. Instead of looking inwards and feeling sorry for itself, the WRC reached out and helped those whose needs were far greater.
Sébastien Ogier donated €10,000 to care for wildlife injured in the fires. The Frenchman joined his fellow drivers in attending a variety of events including visits to the Red Cross and Rural Fire Service in Coffs Harbour
Having already stocked up for the rally ahead, the teams quickly donated all the food intended for the week to the local community, some of which was used, along with supplies from Rally Australia, to feed 300 volunteers on Friday and Sunday.
Generous competitors added to the support, with many donating their entry fees to charity.
Toyota Motor Corporation and the Australian arm of the Japanese manufacturer joined in the efforts to support local relief work. They pledged a massive $250,000 AUD through The Salvation Army Australia.
It all adds up to a wonderful boost to help the communities and the heroic emergency services who are still dealing with fires raging on the country’s east coast.
In its 30-year history, Rally Australia has provided some quite astonishing coast-to-coast memories. This year will be remembered for the response to genuine human tragedy from drivers, co-drivers and all involved with Rally Australia and the WRC.