WELSH RAL­LY­ING SAVED FROM FOR­EST FEE RISE

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - Pho­tos: Jakob Ebrey, Writ­tle Pho­to­graphic

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.

Welsh for­est ral­ly­ing has been in doubt over fees Ed­wards: Sil­ver Star cham­pion

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