DAVID EVANS

“The day out was well worth the ef­fort”

Motor Sport News - - Rally News -

What bet­ter way to test­drive Wales Rally GB’S all-new, fam­ily friendly for­mat than take the fam­ily to Chol­monde­ley.

That’s how I sold a shock­ingly early start to my wife, mother (she was stay­ing for the week­end) and daugh­ter. My son? He didn’t need sell­ing on any­thing, since Craig Breen joined ot­ters at the cen­tre of his uni­verse.

Chol­monde­ley was at the heart of the big ad­ven­ture. Shun­ning the op­por­tu­nity to shimmy down the side of the line, play the me­dia pass card and sneak closer ac­cess and a shorter walk, we joined the queue bound for the sec­ond of two mas­sive car parks.

It’s fair to say the walk was a con­sid­er­able dis­tance fur­ther than I’d in­tended for re­search pur­poses, but we stuck with it. Fi­nally, the cas­tle came into view – some­where on the dis­tant hori­zon – and even­tu­ally we got our tick­ets scanned (not the chil­dren though – they get in for free) and walked in.

Hav­ing al­ready been to the Chol­monde­ley’s Pageant of Power, when it was so-called, I had a good idea of where the stage went and where we needed to be head­ing. Get­ting there was a very, very dif­fer­ent prospect. There were peo­ple ev­ery­where.

The crowds were way big­ger than I’d ever imag­ined – or seen in a stage for longer than I could re­mem­ber.

Ar­riv­ing late, we’d missed much of the ac­tion, in­clud­ing 35 Group B cars and the ap­pear­ance of Ari, Harri, Miki and Nicky (Ari Vata­nen, Harri Toivo­nen, Miki Bi­a­sion and Nicky Grist) at the au­to­graph-sign­ing ses­sion, but the buzz about the place told its own tale. Peo­ple had clearly had a ball, the lawn mower rac­ing had gone down bril­liantly and the only is­sue had been a dan­ger of the fish and chip stand run­ning out of pota­toes.

A dis­tinct lack of Subaru jack­ets and Mit­subishi base­ball caps in­di­cated this au­di­ence wasn’t hard­core rally, while the num­ber of Ran­g­ies and X5s we’d walked past in the car park hinted a strong rep­re­sen­ta­tion from the local pop­u­la­tion. When the cars came, the fo­cus shifted away from the stands of­fer­ing to paint faces or blow up bal­loons onto the stage. Too late to find any road­side view, we stood in front of the big screen to watch, turn­ing around to catch what lit­tle donut ac­tion could be spot­ted be­tween a thrilled crowd.

The cars went down a treat, but when the crews ar­rived, the sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion about the place was tan­gi­ble. My son got over his mi­nor sulk at a Breen no-show and trans­ferred his al­le­giance, at least in part, to Hay­den Pad­don. He loved it. More than loved it. He’s count­ing the days un­til next year, when he wants to spend the whole day there.

My daugh­ter? She was happy enough – but thought the whole thing could have been im­proved no end by some de­gree of in­put from Harry Pot­ter.

But it was mum who de­liv­ered the ul­ti­mate ac­co­lade. “Ral­ly­ing’s not dead then…”

Thank­fully mother, no.

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