THE Sunraysia Safari Cross Country Rally has once again fallen victim to COVID, with event director Troy Bennett this week making the difficult decision to cancel the race.

It is the second year the event, held on sheep station properties in the Wentworth Shire annually in September, has been cancelled due to the pandemic.

“The COVID situation in NSW has escalated and continues somewhat out of control,” Bennett said.

“The NSW Government announced last week the extension of the current lockdown conditions in parts of NSW until at least the end of August and our sources are indicating it will be far longer than that.

“Those lockdowns, coupled with increasing border closures and restrictions, mean it is now no longer possible to conduct the safari and as such I have made the difficult and painful decision to cancel the event.”

Bennett said it wasn’t possible to get everyone needed for the event − competitors, media and medical team and officials − to and from the Wentworth region in a safe and viable manner.

“I’m currently not even able to get back to our NSW property to commence setting up the event without being locked out of my home in Victoria,” he added.

“It is not reasonable, or practical, to expect that everyone is able to quarantine for 14 days upon returning from the rally, and that’s dependent on your home state letting you back in!

“But beyond all that, I have a responsibility to the local communities and landowners that have supported the safari since it began, and, who continue to be part of the reason that we can conduct the event so successfully today.

“We saw recently the impact of one COVID case inadvertently being brought back to Mildura, and I am not prepared to risk anyone involved in the rally bringing to virus into any of our communities, even innocently.”

Property owners where the event is held plan their farming operations around the rally accessing their property in the second week of September, so it isn’t possible to postpone the event.

“We’re devastated in having to make this decision, and while it’s difficult financially and personally, it really is beyond our control, so rather than wallow around being all doom and gloom, we’ve already set our sights towards 2022,” Bennett said.

“The safari will be conducted in the Wentworth region from September 7 to 10, 2022, and it will be the best bloody rally anyone has ever seen!

“After all, how many events can boast three years of planning?”

ABOVE: Brothers Max and Sam Hutcheson in action at the last Sunraysia Safari.