Mazda tests the tarmac
The rally series looks to move forward, writes STEPHEN OTTLEY
THIS weekend’s Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge is one of the most important events in the 41-year history of the Australian Rally Championship.
For the first time the series will stage an all-tarmac event, and Mazda is using it as part of its evaluation process for joining the series next year.
Mazda’s competing would give the series a much-needed boost in the wake of several disappointing seasons during which Ford, Mitsubishi and Subaru withdrew their support.
Honda has already announced it will join the series next season with a Civic Type R it has used on selected rallies this year.
Mazda has ruled out building a Super 2000 specification car to compete against Toyota’s Corolla and is interested in a new (for 2009) two-wheel-drive class.
Mazda will run a Mazda3 MPS this weekend driven by Brendan Reeves and his co-driving sister, Rhianon Smyth.
‘‘We’ve discussed with CAMS the introduction of the new ARC regulations and the introduction of a separate championship for production- based two- wheeldrive cars,’’ Mazda Australia motorsport manager Allan Horsley says. ‘‘There is still considerable debate to be had about the allocation of points. Manufacturers are waiting to be told how it will all work. In the meantime, we see this as a valuable opportunity for our team to take part in an ARC event, which may be in preparation for 2009.
‘‘In short, Mazda needs to be convinced the regulations CAMS is proposing will consider two wheel-drive production cars on an equal footing with highly modified, four-wheel-drive cars.’’
Rally to the cause: Rhianon Smyth and Brendan Reeves will compete in the Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge.