“Historics could get their own gravel events”
’ve spent about 10 days in the Welsh forests this year watching rally cars and there were times when I wondered if it would even be possible in 2017. But I’m delighted to say that the future of gravel rallying in Wales now looks massively brighter than it did.
For most of the 2016 season, rallying in the Welsh forests was on borrowed time. A massive hike in the cost to use the roads was likely and would have had such an impact that it was hard to see many events surviving. Entry fees of over £700 for 45-mile rallies were a real possibility. Under those terms, it is probable that few events would have attracted enough entries to remain viable.
Step forward a team of people with passion, vision and determination, allied to highly relevant professional skills. They should really have been wearing super-hero capes. Headed by co-driver Jamie Edwards and driver Richard Ceen, Rally4wales pushed ahead with a remarkable plan to deliver the required re-grading of roads from, effectively, within the sport.
Now, we have a clear plan for 2017 and beyond for use of the Welsh forests at the same cost as before. The sabre-rattling talk of a 100 per cent increase is gone and it is no over-statement to say that Rally4wales has turned a potentially crushing blow for the sport into a glorious success.
However, the story does not end there. The sport now has an opportunity to negotiate the use of forests that have not seen a rally car for many years. The widely-believed assumption that only a dwindling number of forests were available for rallying has been exploded.
It seems to me that all the old rules, assumptions and power bases are being reset, which has to be good news for a sport that has taken some big knocks over the last two or three years. There are some fantastic forests that cry out to be used and I really hope we will see that start to happen before too long. Equally, other forests have been horribly over-used in recent times.
Now, there is another opportunity I would love to see come out of this for the benefit of historic rallying. The cost model for use of the forests has long been a per mile charge, regardless of the number of cars and, therefore, damage done to the roads. Could we just now have the chance to look at a charge for two-wheeldrive only events, which is based on the cost of regrading the roads?
Should that be possible we could open up the chance of historic only events, which would be a massive shot in the arm to a branch of the sport that is steadily being decimated by the current diktats on running order. It is a big ask, but if anyone can do it, Rally4wales can.