PAUL LAWRENCE

“Any seed­ing change would be too late”

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - HIS­TORICS EDI­TOR

It was Mark Twain who termed the phrase “lies, damned lies and sta­tis­tics” and he was right. But the num­bers cur­rently in my mind tell of a cri­sis in UK gravel ral­ly­ing. It is right here, right now, but is anyone tak­ing any no­tice? To quote an­other id­iom, “we are fid­dling while Rome burns”.

Let me just get my soap box out from un­der­neath the desk. Right, while there are many fac­tors sur­round­ing the cur­rent cri­sis, it is my firmly held view that one topic is do­ing the most dam­age: run­ning or­der.

As I write this, the en­try lists for the Cam­brian and Red Kite are open and, to put it kindly, nei­ther are break­ing records. Both events kick start the sea­sons for cham­pi­onships that pros­pered in an era when the smaller/older/less pow­er­ful cars ran at the head of the field and en­joyed the best of the road con­di­tions. For the BTRDA Rally Se­ries it was the 1400s and for the MSA Bri­tish His­toric Rally Championship it was the Cat­e­gory 1 and 1600cc cars.

Let’s look at some ac­tual num­bers. In 2015, when the Wyedean was the BTRDA opener and split fields were still al­lowed, the event started 58 1400s and 109 cars in the main field. A year later, the Cam­brian was the sea­son-starter run­ning a sin­gle field and took around 140 en­tries, though only 124 fi­nally started. By last Thurs­day the Cam­brian en­try stood at 118, in­clud­ing just 22 1400s, and could now shrink with with­drawals rather than grow with more en­tries.

A week later in February will be the Red Kite, which started 106 cars in 2015 and 119 last year. The three-way split field in 2015 in­cluded 21 Cat­e­gory 1 and 1600cc his­torics, yet by last week the count was nine cars in a to­tal en­try of 31 his­torics and 21 mod­erns.

Ear­lier this week I chat­ted to a re­spected his­toric com­peti­tor and he con­tin­ues to be fu­ri­ous over the way that changes to the run­ning or­der were im­ple­mented on safety grounds. I share his view that it was a change pushed through by one or two in­flu­en­tial in­di­vid­u­als and based on a flawed ar­gu­ment.

Even a change back to split fields for 2018, should it hap­pen, may be too late as gravel ral­ly­ing is cur­rently hem­or­rhag­ing com­peti­tors. We re­cently lost the Mid Wales Stages, al­beit not di­rectly re­lated to split fields, when a hard­pressed or­gan­is­ing club took the en­tirely sen­si­ble view that the fi­nances of run­ning a ma­jor gravel rally just did not stack up.

Fi­nally, please do not let this cur­rent sit­u­a­tion point at Ral­ly4wales and the new deal for re-grad­ing the roads in Wales. With­out the vi­sion, ded­i­ca­tion and com­mit­ment of the R4W team, things would be much, much worse.

Cat­e­gory 1 ral­ly­ing is suf­fer­ing from seed­ing

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