DRIVERS from five countries launched the final countdown for this weekend’s International Rally of Queensland by symbolically landing on the Sunshine Coast at Maroochydore Beach today.
The annual round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship starts with the Showdown @ the Showgrounds Super Special Stage and rally show at Nambour Showgrounds on Friday night and will continue on forestry Special Stages in the coastal hinterland on Saturday and Sunday.
Today, one of the tourist strip’s biggest annual sports events landed at the Maroochy Surf Club and the planned venue for another major attraction, the 2016 Australian Surf Life Saving Championships.
Rally drivers representing Finland, India, Japan, New Zealand and Australia took their cars on to the beach as lifeguards in Inflatable Rescue Boats raced through the surf to deliver national flags and a warm welcome, recorded for part of the rally’s dedicated television coverage in almost 120 countries.
Then the crews, among almost 90 entered for the rally, left to run a day of testing near Imbil in the Mary Valley.
Tomorrow, they will return to the area for all-day route reconnaissance and to complete their preparations for the start of the 220 km event.
The beach “landing” was attended by drivers Esapekka Lappi (Finland), Gaurav Gill (India), Michael Young (New Zealand), Hiroshi Asakura (Japan) and Adrian Coppin (Australia), plus Sunshine Coast Council member Jason O’Pray, representing the regional government’s Tourism, Sport and Major Events portfolio.
Councillor O’Pray said the International Rally of Queensland would boost the local economy by $6 million and account for 8000 bed-nights in tourist accommodation.
“We’re very excited to have the rally coming to the Sunshine Coast again and proud to have these drivers here,” Cr O’Pray said.
“The Sunshine Coast is fast getting a reputation for events like this, using the natural advantages of our area. I’m unashamedly going for as many of these major events as possible for the Sunshine Coast, while also maintaining the ones we’re already got.”
Rally tickets can be bought at the entry gates to the Nambour Showgrounds and weekend spectator points at Imbil and Pomona, or from the Events Centre in Caloundra.
The Showdown @ the Showgrounds family night will feature rally cars competing under lights and tackling the Hella Jumps, driver autographs, covered grandstand viewing, fireworks at 8.30pm, a Christmas-in-July visit by Santa Claus, a wheel-changing competition, car displays, market and trade stands and food and drink outlets.
The Showgrounds gates will open at 5pm Friday. Public parking will be available from 4pm at the nearby Nambour Bowls Club and Uniting Church.
Ticket prices (adult)
Friday: $30, grandstand + $10 (child U15 grandstand-only $8)
Children under 15 are admitted free to venues throughout the weekend.
Where to see the rally cars –
Friday: 5pm gates open, Showdown @ the Showgrounds, Nambour Showgrounds (street parking); 5.15pm autographs, 6pm Santa Claus, 6.30pm track action starts, 8.30pm fireworks.
Saturday: 6.25am-9am approx, Kenilworth Showgrounds service stopover; 7.20am-all day, Imbil Spectator Park; 10.45am-approx 1.30pm, Pomona Spectator Park; All day, Imbil Showgrounds Hella Service Park; 6.10pm, Ettamogah Pub stopover.
Sunday: 9.05am, Imbil Spectator Park; 10am Classic cars display in Kenilworth; 12 midday Classic cars display in Imbil; All day, Imbil Hella Service Park; 2.30pm, Podium presentations begin, Imbil Hella Service Park.