Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By Jack Benyon

Rally GB – and all ral­ly­ing in Wales – is un­der threat, with the fees for com­pet­ing on forestry land set to es­ca­late from June.

Na­tional Re­sources Wales ar­gues it wants the in­crease to cover the cost of main­tain­ing for­est roads that are used for ral­ly­ing, but many within the sport be­lieve it could make or­gan­is­ing events un­ten­able, with com­peti­tors likely to in­cur the brunt of the fee hike.

The Mo­tor Sports As­so­ci­a­tion, which has ne­go­ti­ated much bet­ter deals in Eng­land and Scotland, be­lieves time is run­ning out to find a so­lu­tion.

Wales Rally GB of­fi­cials fear for the future of Britain’s round of the World Rally Cham­pi­onship as an agree­ment to use the coun­try’s for­est roads has yet to be reached.

The Mo­tor Sports As­so­ci­a­tion and Na­tional Re­sources Wales re­main at odds over a pro­posed in­crease in fees for the use of NRW gravel roads – cast­ing all for­est ral­ly­ing in Wales into doubt.

Rally GB man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Ben Tay­lor un­der­lined the se­ri­ous­ness of the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, telling Mo­tor­sport News: “Like any other event or­gan­iser, we would re­ally strug­gle to ac­com­mo­date the pro­posed in­crease in mileage rates.”

The master agree­ment al­lows the Welsh Govern­ment-owned forests to be used for mo­tor­sport events, but fail­ure to agree on a deal will mean ral­ly­ing in Wales will only be able to take place on pri­vate or mil­i­tary land.

Both Eng­land and Scotland have agreed to new master agree­ments with the MSA, with only a 0.7 per cent in­crease in fees.

NRW is lob­by­ing to re­cover 100 per cent of the costs of main­tain­ing and re­pair­ing the Welsh forests ( see state­ment right), which would mean an in­crease of around 90 per cent ac­cord­ing to sources close to the ne­go­ti­a­tions. The new fee is due to kick in on June 1.

Wales’ WRC star El­fyn Evans echoed Tay­lor’s sen­ti­ments and fears the knock-on ef­fect from the po­ten­tial loss of ral­ly­ing in his home woods.

“We have a mas­sive ral­ly­ing in­dus­try in Wales at the mo­ment,” ex­plained Evans. “If we lose that, is the ap­peal there for Rally GB any­more? Are the com­peti­tors for the na­tional rally there to make the event vi­able, are the spec­ta­tors still go­ing to be in­ter­ested? If no one is in­ter­ested and you lose all that struc­ture, it will af­fect GB too. You have to look at the big pic­ture with this.”

The 27-year-old also called for the MSA, NRW and Welsh Govern­ment to find a com­pro­mise for the good of all par­ties in­volved.

“The reality of the sit­u­a­tion is if it stays the same [an agree­ment isn’t reached] then ral­ly­ing won’t sur­vive [in Wales],” Evans added. “In all hon­esty it’s not re­ally

a Nat­u­ral Re­sources Wales prob­lem, it’s a Welsh Govern­ment prob­lem. What ral­ly­ing brings into the coun­try is mas­sive and that’s off the back of all the smaller ral­lies as well as Rally GB. If we lose all that it’s a mas­sive shame for Wales. Some­where we need to find a com­pro­mise, be­cause ev­ery­body wants it and sup­ports it. But like­wise, Na­tional Re­sources Wales needs to be sus­tain­able as well.”

For­mer World Cham­pi­onship co-driver and event or­gan­iser Nicky Grist also be­lieves the loss of club ral­ly­ing would be cat­a­strophic to the sport, and that the NRW’S cri­te­ria for sign­ing a new deal are un­ten­able.

“The MSA can’t agree to this mas­sive in­crease be­cause it would make the costs of for­est ral­ly­ing un­re­al­is­tic,” ex­plained Grist. “A lot of peo­ple find it dif­fi­cult to pay for the en­try fees we’ve got now and by dou­bling the forestry fees it’s go­ing to send costs through the roof. Above all else you’ve got to ask your­self how can they raise the fees by that much when Eng­land and Scotland agreed to their deals with a 0.7 per cent rise?

“It’s go­ing to take some­one in the Welsh Govern­ment to speak to the peo­ple at NRW and say ‘wait a minute man, are you think­ing about this log­i­cally?’”

The Nicky Grist Stages – a round of the Bri­tish and BTRDA rally cham­pi­onships – will go ahead ac­cord­ing to clerk of the course Neal Cross, as the event only uses a hand­ful of miles in NRW forests. Should an agree­ment not be met, they will reroute the event.

The first rally to be im­pacted by the po­ten­tial lack of a master agree­ment is likely to be the Sev­ern Val­ley Stages held on June 4, al­though the or­gan­iser was un­avail­able for com­ment as MN went to press. The event is due to be part of the Bri­tish His­toric Rally Cham­pi­onship.

Evans: los­ing Welsh ral­ly­ing would im­pact on Rally GB

Grist: Fee rise is un­re­al­is­tic

Club ral­ly­ing in Wales is most at risk from fee hikes

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