RALLY GB RETURNS TO ENGLAND
Cholmondeley Castle stage signals first foray into England since 2001
In a route revealed by Motorsport News, Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship includes a special stage outside Wales for the first time in 17 years this season.
As part of a new three-year agreement with the Welsh Government, event organisers negotiated the potential for expanding the route beyond the border and into England.
The Cholmondeley Castle stage on the second day of the October 27-30 rally is the first WRC competition to the east of Offa’s Dyke since the second running of the Cheltenham racecourse stage on Sunday November 21, 1999.
The headline changes to the route are the inclusion of Pantperthog for the first time since 1997. The Great Orme won’t be used and Cholmondeley replaces Chirk as the ‘Rallyfest’ stage. While the route has been sanctioned by the FIA, there is still talk of one more change, the inclusion of a non-competitive element in Chester. Chester’s an obvious place for Rally GB to cross the border, given it’s only five miles from the service park and has such a rich rallying history.
This year’s Rally GB will be the longest in terms of competitive mileage since 2011, with crews facing 208.75 miles across 22 stages. It won’t, however, include any night stages – the majority of the event runs in British Summer Time, before the clocks go back on the final morning.
The Deeside service park will only be used on Friday and Saturday evening, with no mid-day service on any days this year. The lack of lunchtime service is linked to the FIA’S 25 per cent rule which states at least a quarter of the total route has to be competitive – something Rally GB hasn’t been able to achieve in recent years, with long liaison sections to and from the stages. With more pressure than ever on calendar slots, rallies are increasingly keen to toe the line with the FIA and WRC Promoter.
Route co-ordinator Andrew Kellitt said: “The [25 per cent] rule was quite a big ask, but the way to do it was to go out to an area and stay there, extracting the maximum possible mileage before coming back to service.
“There’s nothing new with Friday, we haven’t had a mid-day service for a while now. Saturday’s different, but I don’t think we’re going to be putting any stress on the tyres to run this distance.
“It’s the same with Pantperthog on Saturday and Clocaenog on Sunday: we’re driving past these
fantastic roads, so why not use them?”
The start and finish venues have been changed from last year, with the Thursday night opening ceremony moving back to its 2014 location, Eirias Park in Colwyn Bay. The finish is returned to Llandudno after running it in the service park was felt too cramped last year.
Returning the finish to Llandudno made the use of the Great Orme stage difficult. Kellitt added: “It’s a long way to bring the car up from the forests to the Great Orme and it’s not representative of the rally, so we don’t want to run it as the powerstage. Also, it’s also not ideal having the cars come off a stage and straight to the [finish] podium.
“I’m happy with the route. We set out with the objective of falling in line with the FIA’S 25 per cent rule and we’ve done that with some great roads.”
This year’s event will be known as the Dayinsure Wales Rally GB, after the insurance firm agreed to title sponsorship.