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Bush fires reduce Rally Australia to four repeated stages

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By Reuters

(Reuters) – Bush fires have forced organisers of the Rally of Australia, which is set to decide the manufacturers’ title between Hyundai and Toyota, to reduce the route to less than a third of the original distance.

Organisers said on Monday they planned to run the season-ending Coffs Harbour-based event over just 94.37 km, instead of 324.53 km, and with only four different stages to be used repeatedly.

The proposed route remains subject to approval by the governing FIA and New South Wales (NSW) Government. Spectator facilities will be provided only at the two super special Stages.

“We continue to stay in close and constant contact with the rural fire service and authorities about the changing nature of the NSW bushfire emergency and we are ready to react if necessary,” said event CEO Darryl Ferris in a statement.

Authorities declared a state of emergency across a broad swath of Australia’s east coast on Monday, urging residents in high risk areas to evacuate ahead of looming “catastrophic” fire conditions.

Bushfires burning across NSW and Queensland states have already killed three people and destroyed more than 150 homes. Officials expect adverse heat and wind conditions to peak at unprecedented levels on Tuesday.

Hyundai lead defending champions Toyota by 18 points, with Toyota’s Estonian Ott Tanak already sure of the drivers’ championship.

According to rally regulations, only a third of points will be awarded if 25% or more but less than 50% of the scheduled length has been run.

That would make a win worth eight points instead of 25. Points for the final power stage remain unchanged.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar)