“Ch­ester is back and ral­ly­ing is bet­ter for it”

Motor Sport News - - Rally Gb Report -

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

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