Ral­ly­ing wor­ries

MN

Motor Sport News - - Sporting Scene -

Fur­ther to Jack Benyon’s lead ar­ti­cle in last week’s

en­ti­tled ‘Where have all the spec­ta­tors gone?’ I don’t think this is­sue is just re­stricted to the Manx (sorry Rally Isle of Man...).

Back in the 1980s and 1990s when I and sev­eral friends used to make the an­nual pil­grim­age to the Isle of Man each Septem­ber, the fer­ries were packed from both the UK and Ire­land with rally fans. On the stages, it was very rare that you found your­self stand­ing next to a Manx res­i­dent.

Those were the days when the Open Cham­pi­onship/ BRC was in its prime and also counted to­wards the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship.

The ad­di­tional ap­peal of the rally back then was that if you mar­shalled at least one stage then you found your­self in pos­ses­sion of a ticket to the awards pre­sen­ta­tion and af­ter party.

Those were dif­fer­ent times. The BRC is start­ing to get back on its feet af­ter a lit­tle time in the dol­drums and I ap­pre­ci­ate that, in the after­math of the Jim Clark Rally deaths and other un­for­tu­nate events, ral­ly­ing had to ad­dress some of the is­sues sur­round­ing the an­tics of it’s more poorly be­haved fol­low­ers. How­ever the dra­co­nian changes that have been im­ple­mented in the last 12 months or so are slowly killing the ap­peal of watching the sport.

At most events now

Mo­tor­sport News,

spec­ta­tors are viewed as be­ing about as wel­come as farts in a space suit and are be­ing cor­ralled into pens nowhere near cor­ners or, heaven for­bid, jumps, mak­ing the sport less of a spec­ta­cle.

There also ap­pears to have been a change in at­ti­tude with re­gards to mar­shalling in some quar­ters, with a num­ber of in­stances I’ve wit­nessed that I can only de­scribe as be­ing akin to school­yard bul­ly­ing with spec­cies be­ing treated like cat­tle.

This is al­ready driv­ing peo­ple away from the sport and to­day’s fans are po­ten­tially to­mor­row’s mar­shals, com­peti­tors or even spon­sors. You can’t ex­pect an en­forced cul­ture change not to have an ef­fect and ral­ly­ing’s ap­peal has al­ways been its ac­ces­si­bil­ity, take that away and watch the foun­da­tions crum­ble.

Hope­fully as time pro­gresses a bit of com­mon sense will start to creep back, how­ever it would ap­pear that the MSA is al­ready start­ing to pat it­self on the back and con­sid­ers the job done with­out out any need for de­bate so I fear if any­thing things are go­ing to get worse not bet­ter. Chris Lunn North York­shire

A Ford RS200 at Ral­ly­day, taken by Greg Tomkin

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