Scot­tish event drafted in to re­place the can­celled Mid Wales Stages in Bri­tish se­ries IN OUT BOR­DER COUN­TIES

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - By Jack Benyon Pho­tos: Jakob Ebrey, Lind­say Photosport

The open­ing round of the Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship – the Mid Wales Stages – has been can­celled amid un­cer­tainty over the costs of ral­ly­ing in Welsh forests.

The cham­pi­onship will in­stead open with the Bor­der Coun­ties Rally in Jed­burgh in mid-march. The event was shuf­fled into the cham­pi­onship last Fri­day on short no­tice.

The can­cel­la­tion of the Mid Wales Stages comes amid an on­go­ing dis­pute over the fees to rally in Welsh Gov­ern­ment-run forests.

An in­de­pen­dent cam­paign named Ral­ly4wales reached a deal with Nat­u­ral Re­sources Wales – the gov­ern­ment body tasked with tak­ing care of Welsh Gov­ern­ment forests – to takeover re­pair of the roads late in 2016.

But a mis­un­der­stand­ing over VAT costs means cer­tain clubs, in­clud­ing Mid Wales or­gan­is­ing club New­town & Dis­trict Au­to­mo­bile Club, will have to pay 20 per cent charges on the road re­pairs car­ried out by Ral­ly4wales.

Ral­ly4wales and many clubs in Wales are work­ing to al­le­vi­ate the ef­fects of the VAT rise, but it’s thought that the nar­row time frame be­tween now and the Mid Wales event is one of the main con­tribut­ing fac­tors for cur­tail­ing the event. How­ever, some have la­belled Ral­ly4wales a ‘scape­goat’ for other trou­bles fac­ing the event.

A state­ment from the NDAC read: “Fol­low­ing a meet­ing of New­town &

Where to start. It seems that my pre­dic­tions in MN last week were all askew. It wasn’t that bad in 2016, I de­clared. And 2017 is look­ing up. What a hor­rific start to the year. First off, Mid Wales. It’s a shame the BRC won’t open with two of the best stages in Wales. Scratch that, two of the best stages in the UK. Yes, I’m happy to put my name to that view. The scenes at the sto­pline of Sweet Lamb/hafren SS1 of Mid Wales last year were palpable. I’m sad­dened they won’t re­turn.

The rea­sons be­hind the can­cel­la­tion are as foggy as the top of My­herin can be. The state­ment from the event men­tioned the rea­sons were “due to the cur­rent fi­nan­cial un­cer­tain­ties of run­ning a for­est stage event” but or­gan­iser Wayne Jones wrote an ex­cel­lent piece pub­lished on the event’s Face­book page giv­ing more in­sight.

Yes, one of the con­tribut­ing fac­tors for the club can­celling the event was hav­ing to pay the VAT rise with Ral­ly4wales re­pair­ing the roads. But, for the few declar­ing that this is Ral­ly4wales’ fault, bear in mind they’ve sin­gle-hand­edly ended chances of a rise just un­der 100 per cent. Would you rather a 20 or a 100 per cent rise?

Fur­ther­more, other events in the year should have enough time to work out a so­lu­tion for the VAT rises, which Ral­ly4wales is work­ing hard on. And – re­mem­ber – we’re al­ways quick to point out and de­fend events be­cause they are run by vol­un­teers. Not only is Ral­ly4wales a not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion, but the likes of founder Jamie Ed­wards, Richard Ceen and or­gan­is­ers of the Welsh Rally Cham­pi­onship have ded­i­cated a mon­strous amount of time to mak­ing sure the pro­vi­sion was there for ral­ly­ing to con­tinue with the suc­cess of R4W.

I also find the accusation that the BRC is to blame laugh­able. The fee paid to the BRC is less than four com­peti­tor en­tries. That in­cludes seven peo­ple, four scru­ti­neers, cham­pi­onship man­ager Iain Camp­bell, a press of­fi­cer, plus a re­sults ser­vice. Not to men­tion TV pro­duc­tion costs, which ben­e­fit the pro­mo­tion of the event.

I re­spect the Mid Wales de­ci­sion. This comes down to not know­ing how many en­tries they’d get and not tak­ing the fi­nan­cial risk. Or­gan­is­ers can’t be blamed for that.

All we can hope is that Ral­ly4wales and the clubs in Wales find a VAT so­lu­tion. Could the BRC open reg­is­tra­tions ear­lier in 2017/18 to give the first event a bet­ter chance of know­ing en­tries? It would prob­a­bly help. But it’s worth bear­ing in mind that you can reg­is­ter and not do ev­ery event…

For­est costs have led to event swap

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