TWEAKS SHINE ON ‘NEW’ RALLY GB
Format tweaks proved to be a hit with huge crowds
Wales Rally GB chief Ben Taylor has admitted he was overwhelmed by the success of the new elements introduced to last week’s Deeside-based World Rally Championship qualifier.
Taylor pointed to the three revised areas of the event – a Chester time control on Friday night, Saturday’s Cholmondeley stage and Sunday’s powerstage – and said each of those three were more successful than he could have hoped for.
“We weren’t sure how Chester would work, to be honest,” said Taylor. “A lot of people in Chester don’t remember what happened there 20 years ago, a lot of them weren’t even born. So we didn’t know how many people would come. But they came and they came in droves. The place was packed and the atmosphere was simply incredible.”
It was a ground-breaking midevent autograph session which really worked for fans in the first English WRC stage since 1999.
“In Cholmondeley we wanted to do something different,” Taylor added. “It had never been done before, but we were running this stage on the way into Deeside and we had the time to try it. It worked better than anybody could ever have imagined. We catered for 5,000 fans at what was a brand new Rally GB venue and got at least double that.
“We had to find a way of connecting with people who don’t remember Colin Mcrae and Richard Burns and that’s what we did. We brought the sport and the event to a vast number of people and we created an awful lot of rally fans. And that’s what British rallying needs.
“OK, there are areas we need to work on: the catering facilities were hopelessly inadequate because we simply didn’t expect those numbers, but we have something to work on for the future.
“And finishing the powerstage in front of the people was just brilliant. Again, the atmosphere was simply incredible – as it was in service on Deeside, where we had 20,000 people coming in to essentially watch the players lace up their boots!”
Taylor was quick to pay tribute to the Welsh government and its decision in allowing a Welshfunded event to move outside of the national boundary.
“The government does deserve a huge amount of credit for this,” he said. “They had the vision to see the potential benefits and they’ve really reaped the reward.”
World champion Sebastien Ogier was a fan of the innovations, telling MN: “I had never seen Chester before and it was beautiful. We came at the end of a long day and it was quite late, but it was definitely a good plan to come and see so many people.
“It’s the same with the new [Cholmondeley] Castle stage. There are only maybe three corners in this stage, but the castle is incredible and the people there were so amazing. I was happy for this.”
There was some criticism of the route, with Citroen’s Yves Matton feeling the Deeside service park was underused.
“The organisers have made this great tool which they are now not using at all,” said Matton. “We have been here for three days and nobody comes, only on Friday and Saturday night. Having said that, we understand the decision to take the rally closer to the people in Chester and we are happy for this.”
Friday’s 14-hour day and Saturday’s 60-mile loop on one set of tyres also caused some concern, but route co-ordinator Andrew Kellitt told MN: “The geography of this event means we have a service park in the north and the bulk of the stages in the middle. We are under pressure to make sure 25 per cent of the total mileage is competitive and to go down to Hafren and come back to Deeside for midday service is not really possible.”
Taylor added: “We can take the service park to Builth Wells, a place surrounded by stages. But we’ve tried that and the teams complained about the lack of fans and the lack of hotel rooms.”
Chester was well received by fans
Taylor: New GB a success