This year's Rally New Zealand was a huge success, but could be the event's last World Rally Championship appearance, as it does not have a place on the 2011 schedule.
Chairman of the organizers Chris Carr talked to AUTOSPORT about the future of the event.
Q. What are the chances of Rally New Zealand being back in 2011?
Chris Carr: I honestly don't know. It was a really hard thing to do to work to get a place in the championship, only to have to turn around and decline it because of the logistics of running during the Rugby World Cup. There's talk of another event for next year: I don't know if it [NZ] can be that event because of those same logistics. There's a whole bunch of people here who hope it will be that event. I'm assuming it will be midwinter our time and that's not an ideal date for us.
All we're planning for is 2012 because, possibly arrogantly, we figure we deserve a slot for 2012. Whether we'll be granted one is another issue – that's not our decision, but we figure we deserve one as we deliver a good sporting event. We've proved the quality of what we deliver over 40 years is pretty good. We hope that gives us a slot.
Q. Would you be prepared to rotate with Australia?
CC: I feel we should stand on our own, not that there's a problem with rotating with Australia, it's just that the whole rotation system makes it incredibly difficult to deal with staff, with sponsors. What is simplistically a very good idea is unbelievably difficult to deliver. The rotation system cost us and Australia sponsors and I'm sure it's happened to other events. You lose your intellectual capital from letting people go. It was a very clever idea that didn't work.
Q. What about an alternative date for next year – something which doesn't clash with Rugby World Cup?
CC: We've had every date from March to November, every date possible over the years. We've always moved to accommodate other events, we've been the whipping boy because the logistics dictate that. It takes six or seven weeks to get sea freight here. And, for that reason, we have been more amenable to shifting than any other event – the other rallies always come up with reasons why they can't move. We've always said: "Yes we can," and made it work.
Q. Were you offered alternatives for next year?
CC: No. They came and proposed a date toward the end of October. We were given that date on the assumption that Australia would be three weeks prior, then they would come here. I don't believe the guys [at North One Sport] had any idea about RWC. My first thought was yes, that's good, then I thought: "S***, bloody World Cup!"
Q. Are you worried, because you're not in there next year, you might not be back in the WRC?
CC: That was definitely the first feeling we got from the first calendar [which didn't include Rally New Zealand]. I felt that was a programmed leak to measure the environment to see how it would work. I was of the understanding that they felt this was the optimum calendar.
We hope this won't be the end. And that's why we set out to produce a world-class event that people would say it's hard to ignore. I'm sure you'll agree the three days of sport were pretty fantastic on Rally New Zealand this year.
Q. If you do return in 2012, would you run the same event?
CC: I think it's worked, but other people are the judges. The New Zealand public think it's worked and the teams will have their views. What's significant to us is that the teams haven't complained to us. I'm sure they've been uncomfortable with some of it and it's credit to them that they've got on with it and made it work.
Q. Will you stay in Auckland?
CC: We signed a three-event contract with Auckland and this was year one of that, so yes.
Q. One of the big arguments for not coming to New Zealand is the size of its car market. What do you say to that?
CC: Our market is about 30 percent bigger than Finland's market. The other thing I find strange is that this is a global organization and a world championship, so the fact you're in the far corner of the world shouldn't preclude you.
Q. Would you be interested in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge?
CC: We would look at IRC and there's no reason why we wouldn't. It's rally and that's what we want to do. But, we've done WRC for a long time and arrogantly we think we deserve a place. Arrogantly, perhaps, we feel we run a good event.