“The day out was well worth the effort”
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.