The RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship is officially in Tasmania this weekend with the highly anticipated Shannons Rally Launceston.
Boasting some of the most popular gravel rally roads in all of Australia, the two-day rally will look a little different from recent years but will still embrace many of its traditional features made famous over time.
Run as a sprint rally, the two-day event will be split into two heats with the 28 crews to battle it out for points on each day.
Made up of 191 competitive kilometres over 12 special stages, the event gets underway on Saturday where crews will complete 111 competitive kilometres over six stages.
The rally resumes on Sunday with a further six stages and the remaining 80 competitive kilometres, including the EROAD Power Stage, which will be the second pass of the Lisle stage.
However, before the action gets underway on Saturday morning, a free ‘Rally Show’ on Friday night with the support of the City of Launceston and CityProm will give locals a chance to see the cars up close.
Taking place in Civic Square between 5-7pm AEST, the show will feature cars, competitors and plenty of family friendly activities for the public to enjoy.
Civic Square won’t be the only opportunity where fans will see the cars in action with the Inveresk based Service Park and the multiple Spectator Points at Security Rd and in the Sideling area, giving fans great views.
As for what cars the fans will see, both the ARC and Motorsport Australia Tasmanian Rally Championship (TRC) entry lists are stacked with stars.
From a national point of view, Harry Bates headlines the 17-car ARC field, despite having substitute co-driver Coral Taylor beside him, while teammates Lewis Bates and Richie Dalton both come to Tasmania off the back of career-best performances in Western Australia.
Several other top end drivers are entered in the round, including Troy Dowel, Tom Clarke and Taylor Gill – the latter of which will return to the ARC after missing last month’s round.
“It’s been 12 weeks since the Netier National Capital Rally and I am feeling keen to get back into it,” Gill said.
“Finishing fourth in Canberra was cool and it was nice to stack up well against the best in Australia, but our main focus is the White Wolf Constructions ARC Production Cup, so I am hopeful of another good result this weekend.
“I have never been to Tasmania before and it’s different to anything I have done in my life, but I have been doing my homework on it and I feel mentally prepared.
“It will be the fastest rally I have ever done in my life, which is a bit intimidating, but it’s a new challenge and the roads have good character to them, so I am just keen to get into the swing of it.”
Joining Taylor in the White Wolf Constructions ARC Production Cup will be a handful of quick Tasmanian steerers – some of which would consider themselves as a small chance of nabbing an outright podium.
Leading the local frontier for drivers entered in both state and national components are former Tasmanian champions Eddie Maguire, Stephen Maguire and Bodie Reading, as well as the ever-reliable Ben Newman
For the Bucky Motorsports driver, it’s a weekend he is looking forward to very much.
“I am definitely excited. Any gravel rallying is fantastic, but to be part of the pinnacle is cool,” Newman said.
“Being on the same roads as the best in Australia will be a good benchmark and I’ll be keen to make some good progress.”
As for the TRC list, 11 crews will take on the event and while Elliot Ritchie is the number one seeded driver, Timothy Auty and Dean Lillie are ones that could cause an upset.
Fans wanting to keep up to date throughout the weekend will be able to do so via the ARC live blog, while Sunday afternoon’s EROAD Power Stage will be live streamed on 7Plus from 3:30pm AEST. In the weeks after, the event highlights show will be on 7Plus and 7Mate in Australia, and Sky Sport in New Zealand.
Shannons Rally Launceston will take place around the forests of Launceston on 24-26 June.