Australia shifts world leg from troubled venue

Sydney:The Australian leg of the FIA Rally World Championship will be moved from Northern Rivers where angry protesters caused havoc during the 2009 event, race officials said on Wednesday.

Protesters who had campaigned unsuccessfully to have the leg scrapped over environmental concerns pelted rocks at drivers last year and forced the cancellation of two stages.

The event will be shifted a few hundred km south to the eastern coastal resort of Coffs Harbour in New South Wales, the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport said in a statement.

"The area, with its myriad of well maintained gravel forestry and shire roads, is regarded as having some of the best rally stages in Australia," the statement said.

The new venue had already been signed off by the FIA world rally commission and a date would be set soon, it added.

"This is an absolutely fantastic opportunity for the Coffs Harbour region," said city council mayor Keith Rhoades.

"From an economic perspective, we would see around A$15 million ($14.52 million) directly injected into the local economy through this one event alone."

Prior to its one-year stint at Northern Rivers, Rally Australia was hosted at a venue south of Perth from 1989 to 2006 but was scrapped due to financial reasons.

Bureau Report