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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Adrenaline rush: Motorsport rally this weekend

The Canberra Weekly got an exciting preview of Canberra’s biggest motorsport event, the Netier National Capital Rally, which will be held this weekend (9–11 April).

Riding in a rally car through Kowen Forest is at once terrifying and exhilarating. As one bloke remarked, it’s like the world’s best roller-coaster. The car hurtles through tunnels, veers around corners, leaps over crests, and slides down dirt tracks at 130km/h in a high-speed dust storm.

“It’s a huge adrenaline rush,” rally driver Adrian Coppin said.

“Flat-out top speed probably doesn’t do much more than 180, 185, but obviously it gets there very quick – and when you’ve got big trees either side of you, rocks, and jumps, it’s pretty fast enough!”

The Canberra event is the first stage of the 2021 RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship. Sixty starters will come from around Australia – NSW, Queensland, Victoria and WA – and more than a thousand spectators will watch.

Over the two days, the competitors will drive 160km in 14 stages from Kowen Forest to the Cotter Dam.

“You have a co-driver, so there’s an element of teamwork involved,” Mr Coppin said.

“It’s tactically very challenging. You’re obviously changing conditions all the time – unlike circuit racing, where you get used to the same corner and sequence. Some corners are muddy; some are dry and dusty. Being adaptable and having to adjust is what I find appealing and challenging about it.”

Rally driving is “probably safer than a normal road car, to be honest,” Mr Coppin believes. Drivers wear crash helmets, fireproof suits, boots and gloves, while a head restraint stops their neck moving. Half-a-dozen straps keep drivers safely buckled in, while in the rare case of an accident, fire suppressants in the cabin quickly extinguish the blaze.

James Coppin behind the wheel of his rally car. Picture: Nick Fuller

The event has been held annually since 1995, but last year’s rally was a small affair. Canberra was meant to be the first round of the Australian championship in March; it ended up as a one-round cup in November. This weekend, however, will be followed by rallies in Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, SA and NSW (Coffs Harbour).

The event is sponsored by local companies Abode Hotels, Netier, National Capital Toyota, the Capital Brewing Company, and the ACT Government.

“If we can get people out of the house, enjoying themselves, and increasing the revenue for the ACT at the same time, that’s a very good result,” said Mick Gentleman MLA, Minister for Planning and Land Management.

Mr Gentleman expected the Canberra rally would bring millions into the ACT economy, although it is a smaller event because of COVID.

“Generally, you would get a $7.30 return for every dollar spent. That’s a return to the Territory. It doesn’t come back to government, of course, but it certainly comes back to people spending money in the Territory, whether it’s in the tourism sector, hotels, repair shops, or fuel sales. So it’s a good return for the dollar spent.”

Past rallies have brought close to $3 to $4 million into the economy.

Mr Gentleman himself has competed in rally events for 42 years, winning championships in NSW and the ACT.

“It is a fantastic sport – the appeal for me is the adrenaline, the technicality, and the teamsmanship.”

Free tickets are available online.

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