Rally de Portugal, Faro 2-5 04 2009Organisers of Repco Rally Australia have set out the circumstances that led to the cancellation of Special Stage 6 on the first day of the FIA World Rally Championship event last Friday.

The CTEK East I stage at Byrill Creek was stopped urgently and subsequently cancelled after rally officials received reports that large rocks or boulders had been placed on the road about to be driven by competitors and that rocks had been thrown at rally cars.

Rally Australia organising committee chairman Garry Connelly said there had been much debate about the incidents and it was necessary to set out the sequence that led to the stage being stopped.

He said that although the perpetrators had not been found yet, Rally Australia had never claimed they were representatives of the official No Rally group.

The organisers described the events on Friday 4 September on SS6 as follows –

The Course Information car went through the stage commencing around 9.38 am, finishing around 9.55 am. The course was clear at the time.

The 000 Car commenced the stage around 9.53 am and after proceeding a short distance came across a number of rocks and boulders placed around a corner in the middle of the road. It was the assessment of the crew of 000 that it would have been physically impossible for these rocks and boulders to have accidentally rolled on to the road.

The crew of 000 removed these rocks and boulders, the larger of which required two people to carry from the road. It was the assessment of the experienced crew that had a rally car hit these obstacles serious damage would have been caused and it might well have involved an accident which could have caused injury to either the crew or persons nearby.

Car 000 then continued on through the stage and approximately 500 metres later came across another set of rocks and boulders, which they removed from the roadway.

Car 00 then followed and had to stop at around the same location, due to a person coming on to the roadway and blocking it. This person proceeded to read what was apparently a prepared anti-rally message to the crew, who ultimately were able to move on and finish the stage.

Car 0 then entered the stage and reported that it had hit at high speed some fencing which had been dragged across the roadway, in the same location as 000 had encountered the rocks. A number of koala signs also were found to be missing from this area of road.

Around this time, between Car 0 starting the stage and the first competing car starting at 10.37 am, a security marshal near the area where the rocks had been discovered by the 000 Car  was told by people who said they were against the rally that they intended to throw rocks at the competing cars. The security marshal moved to a location to report this to Rally HQ. However, the first and second cars had already started the stage. At this time an onlooker who did not appear to be associated with the anti-rally group advised the security marshal that people had been throwing rocks at rally cars in this same area.

This information was immediately relayed to Rally HQ just as the third car was starting the stage

In view of the prior confirmed actions, namely the placing of rocks and boulders on the road, the human obstruction of Car 00 and the fencing across the road encountered by Car 0, plus the rock-throwing intention advised to the security marshal, when the Clerk of Course received the report that rocks were actually being thrown, an immediate and urgent decision was required. The Clerk of Course had no choice but to cancel the stage as she was not prepared to put any person at risk.

It should be noted that on day 3, rock-throwing did occur and a car was damaged as a result.

Additionally, there was another attempt to block a stage during the rally which was foiled by the rapid action of one of the 0 Car crews. This attempt could also have resulted in serious injuries to crew members. Details of this attempt were provided to the police at the time. However, the organisers do not intend to make public the attempted method employed.

The organisers stress that they have no reason to believe that any of the above activities, some of which were dangerous and risked damage and injury, were carried out by the No Rally group and have never accused the No Rally group of involvement.

In all cases the police acted immediately in assisting the organisers.