WELSH RALLYING SAVED FROM FOREST FEE RISE
Rallying in Wales has avoided a large cost increase for using roads owned by the Welsh government.
A not-for-profit organisation called Rally4wales has agreed a deal with the governing body in the UK, the Motor Sports Association, and the body responsible for upkeep of the Welsh forests, Natural Resource Wales, to repair the roads and take on the cost for doing so.
This was previously done by NRW and supported by the MSA. While the new fees are yet to be released, Motorsport News understands that the current rate plus interest will remain.
“There are still a few details to deal with,” said Tim Jones, executive director operations, North and Mid Wales for NRW. “But we are optimistic that this innovative new approach will enable NRW to continue to host rallies into the future.”
Rally4wales founder and co-driver Jamie Edwards hopes the move will help to secure rallying’s future in Wales.
“This is an exciting, innovative new concept to sustainably underpin forestry stage rallying in Wales,” he said.
The statement from the three parties read: “Following extensive high level discussions between all parties, a totally new outline concept has been agreed for a deal to allow international and national level rallying to continue in Wales on the Natural Resource Wales (NRW) operated forestry estate.
“Rally4wales will manage a ‘self-repair’ team attending to the forest roads after each rallying activity, resulting in organising clubs working directly with Rally4wales to enable repairs to be made. It is anticipated that costs will be in line with the pre-2016 forestry charges for at least the next three years.”
Isle of Man and Northern Ireland apart, this weekend’s Mull Rally remains the only closed public road rally on ‘mainland’ UK soil. Quite a surprise considering the first one ran 26 years ago in 1990. Apart from the Jim Clark Rally, which gained its own Road Closure Order Act nearly 20 years ago in 1997, the predicted abandonment of gravel in favour of Tarmac didn’t happen. Admittedly the whole sport suffered a setback two years ago when two members of the media and a companion were struck down in a tragic accident.
That issue has still not been resolved. Following the conclusion of the Police Investigation, the Lord Advocate was due to report late last year, delayed till earlier this year, and then he resigned. The new Lord Advocate has since taken up his appointment with hopes high that he would finalise the long awaited report. Sadly not, he wants to familiarise himself with the paperwork. Another delay.
Sport is not alone. It would appear that the Government is having problems with enquiries generally which seem to suffer badly from over-running timetables, and incurring exorbitant costs while losing members of the various enquiry teams for one reason or another.
That aside, the whole affair not only set Tarmac rallying back, but it has had a severe impact on forest rallying. Now we’re facing a significant hike in forestry usage costs. If ever there was an incentive to look at new ideas, here’s one.
And yet despite all this, rallying in the UK continues to churn out top co-drivers. The slow death of road rallying may have contributed to a decline in numbers, but the quality speaks for itself. Chris Patterson, Scott Martin, Seb Marshall, Craig Parry, Stuart Loudon and Daniel Barritt are all regulars on the world series.
Which brings me back to Mull. It has often been said (tongue in cheek) that Mull should be in the WRC. That’s not as daft as it sounds according to Daniel Barritt who won the event in 2007 and 2008 before joining Elfyn Evans and M-sport for three seasons. He now works for Tommi Makinen Racing, but is taking time out to return to Mull next weekend with his winning driver from 2008, Paul Mackinnon.
“I used to think that Mull was the hardest place to read notes,” said Daniel. “It’s still hard but there are harder places. Each rally in the WRC is different and has a different challenge. In some respects Mull is just like that, another event with another challenge. However, the difficulty of the stages is very like the difficulty level on some WRC rounds. It’s also quite a long event compared to other British rallies. It’s an excellent proving ground for aspiring co-drivers.”
That’s why we need more closed road events, but what the organisers need is some leadership, guidance and practical support.
At present, we’re lacking all three at national Government level.