TWEAKS SHINE ON ‘NEW’ RALLY GB

For­mat tweaks proved to be a hit with huge crowds

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By David Evans

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.”

Pho­tos: Gary Jones, mck­lein-im­age­database.com

Ch­ester was well re­ceived by fans

Chol­monde­ley thrilled

Tay­lor: New GB a suc­cess

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