The airport on overload as World Rally Championship crews head off to their next event.
The airport on overload as World Rally Championship crews head off to their next event.

Impressive crowd turnout at rally

RALLY Australia is hailing the Coffs Coast event on September 8-11 as the most successful in its 21-year history.

Final numbers are now in and over the three days and nights, 92,223 people attended the variety of venues, surpassing tallies for previous events in Western Australia and the NSW Northern Rivers.

Rally Australia's general manager Michael Masi said the success would provide strong momentum for negotiations about a possible return event in 2013 and beyond.

"Now that we've had time to catch up on the final attendances and the general reaction, it's clear we are in a great position to secure a longer-term place in the FIA World Rally Championship," Mr Masi said.

"The final attendance figure of 92,223 is significantly larger than the initial figure of 86,000 we disclosed initially and is well above our expectations for a first-time event on the Coffs Coast."

Mr Masi said the strongest factor was the quality of the welcome the local communities gave the rally.

"Everywhere the teams and other visitors went they were overwhelmed by the warmth of the receptions," he said.

"There is clearly a great rally heritage in this region with memories of the legendary Southern Cross International Rally still fresh."

He said drivers, including the winner, Finland's Mikko Hirvonen of the Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, described the roads as among the best in the rally world.

Praise also came from World Rally Championship manager Michelle Mouton, who said the organisation and promotion for the event had been very good and the event was news in newspapers everywhere.

"I'd like to thank the people of Coffs Harbour and surrounds for putting their best foot forward and showing the world how to make a great event," Mr Masi said.

Rally Australia will now be putting together a business plan and discussing the options for future events with all stakeholders.

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