A rush of anticipation ran through through Australia's tight-knit rally community this week with the announcement of a six-round NSW championship starting in early July, which will include the Netier Rally of Canberra rescheduled for September 26-27.
Although Australia's ruling motorsport body is yet to announce the national championship schedule until next week, the expectation is that Canberra will kick off a condensed four-round Australian Rally Championship, of which local driver Harry Bates is the ruling titleholder.
The uncertain component to the national series is the inclusion of Rally Australia at Coffs Harbour, which this year is running as a round of the Asia-Pacific rally championship.
With international travel of sporting teams still on hold due to the global pandemic, Rally Australia's status remains under discussion.
The Netier Rally of Canberra had been scheduled to open the national championship in March but was canned a week out as the COVID-19 pandemic crashed down on sporting calendars around the world.
The Clerk of Course for the Canberra rally, Adrian Dudok, said that when the event was cancelled in March, he filed all the material into a number of storage boxes and waited it out.
"The advantage is that all the preparatory material for the rally had been done, so it's not a huge amount of work to pull it all out, dust it off and re-start the machinery to make it happen," he said.
Under the recently announced NSW series, Canberra sits fourth on that six-round schedule which begins with the Batemans Bay-based Rally of the Bay, set down for July 4.
A bumper entry field is expected for the Rally of the Bay because many national crews are likely to use it as a shakedown for the national series.
Drivers like Harry Bates, who with his brother Lewis is part of the two-car Gazoo Toyota Australia team based out of Neal Bates' workshop in Hume, have not competed since October last year so both Canberra drivers are very keen to use the Batemans Bay event shake down their cars and "blow out the cobwebs" ahead of the ACT rally.
For their father and four-times national champion Neal Bates, the likely re-opening of motorsport across the country brings a huge logistical pressure to bear.
Bates's Canberra operation also prepares cars for the one-make Toyota 86 series which supports the Supercars championship.
This means the team potentially having to truck rally cars and sports racing cars around the country to as many as nine or 10 events within a four-month period.
"For us, the logistics are very challenging; it is a lot of events to prepare for within a short period of time," Neal Bates said.
"The boys (Harry and Lewis Bates] are both super keen to run at the Bay because they need the match practice now that we know the Canberra rally date.
"Rallying should be easier to run as the coronavirus restrictions start to ease because events are run out in the bush, where social distancing is easier to manage."
The Canberra rally is expected to kick off with two special stages at Kowen Forest on the Saturday evening, with 10 more the next day. The cars will be held overnight in a parc ferme at Woden.
The number of entries is still undetermined but more than 35 competitors are expected from around the country for an event which has a long and proud history in the national capital.