MN’S ROAD RALLYING EXPERT “Police want road rallying to clean itself up”
It seems that according to current rally gossip you can’t drive on a road rally in North Wales without putting either your driving or competition licence in danger. It’s true that events in that area have had more attention from police however it would be wrong to think that there is some concerted effort by the constabulary to bring an end to the sport.
Far from it in fact. The police appreciate that road rallying is very popular and has a great deal of support within the community that they serve. But they are under pressure themselves to ensure that laws are upheld.
There has been a ban on the use of the handbrake to execute turns on A and B class roads in North Wales since the days that Jack Romain was Road Liaison Officer, and he’s been dead 10 years. Recently the position has been more formalised with handbrake turns and drifting being outlawed at all times. In 2013 the Department of Transport drew up a list of careless driving offences for which the police could issue £100 on the spot fines. Both handbraking and drifting were included in the list. It seems that, however much we would wish it to be, road rallying cannot be some sort of legalised joy riding.
On the Rali Meirion in September the police, having observed rallies for the previous few months, issued notice that handbrake turns and drifting would not be tolerated. This warning was highlighted in the rally’s regulations, the final instructions and at the pre-event competitors briefing. Despite these warnings 15 drivers were recorded by the police handbraking at junctions on the A470.
These miscreants could have been issued with tickets, however the police wanted the sport itself to take responsibility for cleaning up its act and reported the competitors to the organisers and suggested that the four most blatant offenders should be excluded, while the remainder should be given a fail. These penalties could be accepted or prosecution would follow.
People should remember how some police forces have acted in the past. Numerous rallies in the 1980s, in all areas of the country, found the route being patrolled by large numbers of patrol cars harassing competing cars. Many events were prematurely halted by the police. Today North Wales Police are looking for a constructive approach.
On the Rali Meirion the police were frustrated that warnings had not been heeded. On the following week’s Rali Mon they felt that the message had been received. There are three more road rallies in the area in 2016. Competitor behaviour will be under the spotlight on these events, but, providing the rules are adhered to, there shouldn’t be any fear of police interference.