PAUL LAWRENCE

“His­torics could get their own gravel events”

Motor Sport News - - Rally News -

I

’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.

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