Lakes Entrance will be alive with excitement and the sound of engines when the Alpine Rally of East Gippsland returns later this year.
The Alpine Rally, which was first run in 1921, is Australia’s oldest motorsport event and the fourth oldest motorsport event in the world.
With a history like that, it is easy to see why such an iconic event attracts cars and crews from every mainland state and territory in Australia as well as Tasmania, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
This year has seen nearly 300 expressions of interest to participate in the event for a possible spot in the field of 105 cars that will take to the forests of East Gippsland from Friday, November 29.
Such is the attraction of the region, it will field six ex-Australian rally champions, numerous state champions as well as the newly crowned Australian Rally Champion, Nathan Quinn, who won his first title last week at Rally Australia, Australia’s round of the World Rally Championship.
Add to that four-time Australian champion, Simon Evans, 2017 winner, Ben Barker, and a veritable who’s who of Australia’s best rally drivers, and you have probably the best field ever in the event.
This year has also attracted four of New Zealand’s best rally drivers including Dean Buist and Derek Ayson, as well as Irish national rally competitor, Greg McCormack, who will all be in Ford Escort BDA’s.
The Alpine Rally, as Australia’s pre-eminent historic rally, means that it will attract the largest field ever of historic rally cars seen in this country.
“Historic rallying is the most popular form of the sport in the world at the moment and Australia is no different,” event director, Owen Polanski, said.
“All cars must be over 30 years old, non-turbo and non-four-wheel-drive in keeping with the Alpines of old, which were tests of men and machines rather than current technology.
“As well as that, the cars are incredibly exciting to watch.”
Mr Polanski said the event is lucky to be embraced by the East Gippsland community.
“Especially Lakes Entrance, which opens its community arms to well over 3000 people from all over Australia, which includes competing crews, service crews, officials and spectators,” he said.
“It is such a huge event to organise that it only takes place every two years and many crews build cars especially for this event.
“It is not only Australia’s oldest motorsport event, but one of the toughest with nearly 400 competitive kilometres over the three days of the event.”
The event is supported by East Gippsland Shire Council through its Regional and District Events Sponsorship program (RADES).
Mayor, Cr Natalie O’Connell, said events such as these are vitally important to East Gippsland Shire as they directly and indirectly provide economic benefits to the region, along with the promotional benefits as a place to visit, live, work and invest.
“Council has supported the Alpine Rally for a number of years and is pleased to have been able to provide $3000 to this year’s event, which I am sure will be another success,” Cr O’Connell said.
“For the event promoters to continue to draw capacity fields time and time again is testament to not only the organisation of the Alpine Rally, but also to the terrain, natural beauty and hospitality our region extends to the 3000-strong contingent who converge on Lakes Entrance and East Gippsland from across Australia.
“I trust all competitors, crews and spectators enjoy the 2019 event and take the time to enjoy our region, its attractions and support our small businesses.”
The rally starts from the foreshore in Lakes Entrance from midday on Friday, November 29, with a ceremonial start before heading out to the Colquhoun Forest just north of the town for four stages, which will help the crews settle for the next two gruelling days of competition.
Saturday will see the crews compete from Lakes, past Nowa Nowa, a service in Orbost and then through the forests to the east of Orbost before heading back to Lakes on Saturday evening.
Sunday’s competition will see the cars north of Nowa Nowa before finishing Sunday afternoon, December 1, on the foreshore at Lakes Entrance.
One of the highlights of the event is the chance to get up close to the cars and crews as they service on Sunday morning in Bruthen.
For information on the rally, go to the website or the Alpine Rally of East Gippsland Facebook page. These will be updated over the course of the event to keep people informed of how the rally unfolds.