NO MORE S2000: The National Rallying Commitee has decided to dissolve the S2000 class at the end of the 2016 season. Image: Dave Ledbitter
Johannesburg - The SA National Rally Championship is set to undergo major changes for the 2017 season – the biggest change being the proposed demise of the premium Super 2000 class.
With dwindling competitor numbers and spectator support a task team has spent the past few months determining the current situation and evaluating options for the future. Their conclusion was that the NRC needs to ‘go back to basics’, according to a statement released by the NRC steering committee.
On this basis there will be a shift to a single national championship – for Super 1600 cars – from next year. Effectively this spells the end of the four wheel-drive S2000 class.
With S1600 becoming the top national championship class, all other cars (subject to conditions) will compete in an ‘open class’. According to the NRC statement most sport and recreational activities have been impacted by economic downturns and fluctuating exchange rates, and motorport is no different.
The cost to enter the sport and run teams has become prohibitive and, as a result, the number of participants in the sport has declined over the past few years.
Some work has already been done to reduce costs and there has been a move towards more compact events – with scrutineering, recce, drivers’ briefing and the first few stages of the rally all happening on the Friday, with the balance of the stages happening on the Saturday.
Chris Andrew, chairman of the NRC steering committee, said: "This has definitely helped take a load off the teams but it is not enough. If we want the sport to survive, we need to think about making radical changes."
The shift to a single national championship class only from 2017 will have huge benefits, says Andrew.
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He said: "Barriers to entry will be reduced, running costs will be cut significantly and, hopefully, as a result competitor numbers will increase and people will be drawn back to the sport."
Other spins-offs include more exciting competition, a more stimulating story to tell and better returns for the NRC’s partners and sponsors, he adds.
He said: "This is the first part of the transition of the National Rally Championship. More aspects of the sport are under close scrutiny, including route safety base notes, recces, testing and other facets of events."
In addition, once the shape of the series is finalised, more effort will be put into growing the sport at a grassroots level, ensuring that future drivers line up to keep the championship growing, says Andrews.