“Chester is back and rallying is better for it”
F1 has Monaco, Rallycross has Lydden Hill. Sportscars has Le Mans and NASCAR has Daytona. And, once again, world rallying has Chester.
OK, so I’m biased. I moved to Chester at the age of eight and didn’t leave until I was 22, and some of my fondest memories are there.
But so are the World Rally Championships. British or not, Rally GB has produced some of the most emotional moments in the sport’s history. This column won’t be another ode to Mcrae in 1995, but events like that will never be forgotten.
There’s just something about Chester. Something you can’t quite put your finger on. But even the Scandinavian and South American crews were excited about heading under Britian’s second most photographed clock. If that doesn’t tell you what this means to rallying, I don’t know what does.
And what a spectacle. Credit to Ben Taylor and the GB organising team for getting the rally onto the streets, and the organisers of the Chester Rally Week for what they put together. The crowds were two or three deep at the barriers and the cheers for Ari Vatanen were deafening. The fact that the cars were rolling past my mum’s shop made it even more impressive on a personal level.
The town crier even lifted one of Chester’s most legendary rules for the event. Since medieval times, a rule is in place which allows any Welshman inside the city walls of Chester after midnight to be shot with a bow and arrow. It was lifted, if only for the evening.
But this is where rallying can be so accessible. In many ways, it isn’t, thanks for the need to traipse into a forest for three miles to get muddy, wet and cold. I’m the converted, it’s worth it to me to see some of the best drivers in the world compete. But things like driving the cars through Chester is what rallying should be doing more often. Meet the stars, hear their stories, see their cars. All on your local high street. If 100 of the 1000 people lining the streets head out to Cholmondeley or the forest the next day, that has to be a win. And rallying needs as many wins as it can get.
On a separate note, it was great to see so many British Rally Championship crews impressing at International level. After returning in 2016 with R5s at the front, it did no disservice to the championship’s reputation.
Organisers put on a show in Chester city centre regroup