A claim that competitors in Repco Rally Australia will be conducting high-speed practice runs at night a month before the 3-6 September World Rally Championship round has been dismissed as wrong and alarmist by the event organisers and one of Australia’s most respected co-drivers.
Rally Australia said in a press release: “Rally Australia’s Clerk of Course Dr Michelle Gatton said the activities suggested by Uki local Carolyn Boniface in a newspaper report on Monday were known by all competitors to be a breach of international rally rules and subject to substantial penalties including exclusion and large fines.
“And four-time Australian Rally Champion co-driver Coral Taylor said the article indicated Ms Boniface, reported to have been a rally and race driver in Europe from 1984 until the early 90s, was out of touch with current practice in Australia and overseas, especially at the sport’s top level.”
Ms Boniface was reported in the newspaper to have said: “For a world event we used to show up a month before and start working the stages. You have to know how your car is going to behave on the day of the race. We would go through stages at night with really, really bright lights, because at night the public are not on the roads.”
Ms Boniface warned the same activity in the lead-up to Rally Australia would endanger local wildlife, the paper said.
Dr Gatton said: “Practice on the course is expressly prohibited and simply does not happen.
“Reconnaissance of rally routes is strictly controlled and supervised by the international motorsport body, the FIA.
“It is conducted at road-legal speeds – or slower, in the case of Rally Australia, because we have voluntarily reduced speeds further – and is monitored with GPS units in the reconnaissance cars. Crews can make only two passes over each stage during daytime hours on specified days.
“If a potential competitor was caught on a proposed rally stage even now, more than three months before the event, they know they would be excluded and fined heavily. If a manufacturer team was involved, the fine could be several hundred thousand dollars.
“Any suggestion that WRC rally competitors would be tearing around the course at night, at speed, in contravention of rally and normal road rules, is misinformed, alarmist and out of touch.
“If Ms Boniface has some knowledge of how rallying was conducted in Europe in the 80s, it bears no relation to how a modern rally is run in Australia or overseas.
“What she reportedly suggests would, frankly, amount to cheating. It’s very unfortunate such a claim has been given publicity to wrongly and needlessly alarm residents on the Rally Australia route.”
Coral Taylor, the current Australian champion co-driver with Canberra-based Neal Bates Motorsport, said: “Reconnaissance is held in a very controlled environment and only in daylight hours. The penalty is exclusion and nobody is going to risk that.
“People in Europe in the 80s might have snuck out for night recce, but nobody does that here.”