Aussie rally canceled due to raging bushfires

Source:AFP Published: 2019/11/12 21:18:40

A firefighter battles the flames during bushfires near Taree, New South Wales, Australia, Nov. 11, 2019. A devastating start to the Australian bushfire season has prompted a state of emergency in the eastern state of New South Wales (NSW), with the country's largest city, Sydney bracing for "catastrophic" fire danger. On Monday, a state of emergency was declared for NSW, with exceptionally hot and windy conditions predicted for Tuesday, threatening to create an even bigger fire disaster than that which left three people dead last week. (Xinhua/Bai Xuefei)

Organizers on Tuesday canceled this week's Rally Australia, the final round of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship, because of bushfires raging near the Coffs Harbour venue in New South Wales. 

The event had been scheduled to begin Thursday and had already been scaled back as Australia struggles to control the blazes that have killed three people.

"Considering the best interests and safety of everyone involved in the rally, and of course the wider community, it is not appropriate to conduct the rally," event Chairman Andrew ­Papadopoulos said.

Estonia's Ott Tanak wrapped up his first World Rally title when he finished second to Thierry Neuville in the rally of Catalonia just over two weeks ago. Tanak, who drives for Toyota but will switch to Hyundai next season, now finishes the season 36 points ahead of Belgian Thierry Neuville. 

Tanak is the first non-Frenchman to win the title since Norwegian Petter Solberg in 2003. Sebastien Loeb won it nine years straight with Sebastien Ogier winning the last six.

Hyundai will win the manufacturers crown by virtue of being 18 points ahead of Toyota going into the now-canceled Australian race.

The cancelation announcement came after growing tension among drivers and crews who feared if the rally went ahead it would be in impossible conditions. With ash and thick smoke in the air, the teams had been told to vacate the service area and return to their hotels.


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