Kennards Hire Rally Australia has a rich history

KENNARDS Hire Rally Australia is one of just 13 events on one of the most elite calendars in motorsport, the FIA World Rally Championship.

With the WRC's greatest attractions including the diversity of landscapes, weather, and cultures on its annual global tour, Kennards Hire Rally Australia showcases the unique, sub-tropical setting of the Coffs Coast to a massive audience of spectators and television viewers.

November 16-19 will see the 26th running of Rally Australia and its fifth on the Coffs Coast.

It will also be the 25th time as an FIA World Rally Championship round.

The inaugural event in Western Australia in 1988 hosted the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.

Its organisation was so successful that Australia was awarded its first WRC round for the following year.

WATCH THE KENNARDS HIRE RALLY AUSTRALIAN ACTION ON TELEVISION

Held in and around the state's capital, Perth, its stunning red-ochred earth and fast, naturally marbled, slippery surface quickly earned an esteemed reputation among the rally community.

The location and nature of the event was a perfect breeding ground for innovative and inspired ideas that have since become WRC staples.

The city parklands became one of the first WRC rounds to utilise a cloverleaf-style super special stage, bringing spectators and sponsors close to the action.

Rally Australia also utilised a full electronic timing system for these stages, enabling split timing and final results to be recorded down to one tenth of a second.

As well as a popular following among fans, drivers, teams, officials, and the media, the event earned official acclaim, receiving the coveted Rally of the Year Award, voted by WRC teams, in 1995, 1999, and 2000.

The World Rally Teams Association awarded Rally Australia the Best Promoted Rally Award in 1997, the Award for Excellence in Creative and Professional Organisation in 1998, and the Rally Press Association voted it the Best World Rally in 1997.

The WRC's run in WA ended in 2006, but with the support of the New South Wales Government it reappeared on the Tweed Coast in 2009, aiming to appeal to a larger population of fans.

Rally Australia moved again in 2011 to a new home 300 kilometres farther south on the Coffs Coast.

Steeped in the history of the famous Southern Cross International Rally, local residents and businesses enthusiastically welcomed the stars and cars of the WRC.

In return, the WRC put on a spectacle the likes of which had never been seen, culminating in Finn Mikko Hirvonen winning his third straight Rally Australia.

The 2013 event held promise of Volkswagen driver Sebastien Ogier clinching World Drivers' Championship, but it was dramatically denied not by his own failure but by that of a rival.

But the rally organisers counted their own success, being awarded not only a date on the 2014 calendar but also the prestigious FIA Institute Achievement of Excellence for environmental sustainability - the first motorsport event in the world to do so.

Subsequently, Rally Australia also became the first FIA-sanctioned event to achieve Carbon Neutral Status.

The 2014 Rally recorded the first appearance Down Under of the factory Hyundai Motorsport team, with Australian Chris Atkinson as one of its three drivers.

However, the glory belonged to Volkswagen with Polo R WRC drivers Sebastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen finishing an extraordinary 1-2-3 and ensuring the make's early victory in the World Manufacturers' Championship.

Volkswagen went one better in 2015, scooping not only the Manufacturers' title but also the Drivers' (Sébastien Ogier) and Co-drivers' (Julien Ingrassia) titles in one event.

Last year welcomed Kennards Hire as a naming rights sponsor and was a landmark year in more ways than one.

A city-based action attraction returned for the first time since 2014 with the spectacular Destination NSW Super Special Stage on Coffs Habour's Jetty Foreshore.

Pictures of rally cars in action against the harbour and ocean backdrop were seen around the world on live television, while spectators enjoyed a thrilling experience up-close.

The rally result was 1 Andreas Mikkelsen, 2 Sébastien Ogier, and 3 Thierry Neuville.

But it was a rally tinged with nostalgia, as Volkswagen Motorsport made its WRC swansong after announcing its withdrawal from the series just before Australia.