Would you like something to do now the dark nights are drawing in and the number of events is lessening? Well Hills Ford of Kidderminster may just have the perfect opportunity for you.
On the 10th December they are holding a Motorsport Memories Evening at their premises in Kidderminster and amongst the luminaries invited are Phil Collins, Gwyndaf Evans, Howard Davies and Bryan Thomas, as well as Osian Pryce. There will be a small entrance fee of £5.00, which will go to the Air Ambulance and the British Motorsport Marshals Club, but irrespective of this it is a small price to pay to get the chance to meet and hear from guys whose involvement in British motorsport is now legendary. With Collins and Davies also in close proximity to each other its almost certain the evening will never go to plan!
For more details please follow the link below to the Hills Ford announcement.
The first line of a very old traditional song goes something like this “October winds lament around the Castle of Dromore”. Well I was in the countryside near Dromore Co. Down on the 15th of October for the final round of the 2016 Northern Ireland Rally Championship, and conditions were atrocious!
We were covering start radio on stages 2/4/6 of the Rathfriland Motor Club’s Down Rally. Monson-like heavy rain prevailed for the first run but then eased off and we even had sunshine for the final two tests. Some 76 crews started the closed-road tarmac event which comprised of two seven-mile stages each repeated three times. As the start timekeepers didn’t show up, my mate Victor and Stage Commander Steven stepped into the breach so the event could progress. Don’t start me on marshalling manpower issues again this month!
Anyhow the stages ran without any major incidents and 61 cars made it to the finish. Somewhat surprisingly, due to the wet and slippery conditions which should have favoured 4-wheel-drive, Camillus Bradley made sure of the runner up in the Championship by taking a start-to-finish win in his Ford Escort Mk.2 while his “note man” Crawford Henderson became champion co-driver . Second was a similar Mk.2 crewed by Damian Toner and Denver Rafferty.
Early problems with a misted up windscreen meant Derek McGarrity lost time and could only manage third in his Fiesta WRC, but of course he had won the Championship for the fifth year in a row and for the SEVENTH time!
The only other event I assisted on in October was the new Equinox Targa Rally run by the Ulster Automobile Club. Based at Harrisons of Greyabbey in Co.Down the event used to be called the Circuit of Ireland Retrospective Trial. Gone are the days this event attracted over 100 entries and travelled round Ireland from Friday to Sunday. Financial constraints meant that the club have had to rethink and organise a one-day targa rally. Only 40 competitors turned up and we were timing some of the various tests. Overall winners were Christopher Evans and Kevin Fagan in a Mazda MX5.
Full marks to the UAC for the excellent breakfast provide for competitors and officials at Harrisons which I would thoroughly recommend for a lunch stop with its great views of Strangford Lough and Scrabo Tower. We used a new electronic timing system which is ok until it rains, which it did for me on the Clandeboye Sawmill tests!
So that was my experience of October rallying in Co.Down. Two very different events, trying conditions but both were close to home for me, which makes a change!
Mid Antrim MC return to the actual Glens of Antrim for this event. After being forced to run this rally in the CO.DERRY forests of Cam and Springwell for the past four years, the club have now been able to return to home ground. Based in Ballycastle (where the service park will be located) stages include two runs of Beaghs, Slieveanorra and Ballypatrick. The final round of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship has attracted an entry of around 70 cars. We will be providing timekeepers and rescue as well as stage marshals.
Circuit of Ireland Rally Event Director, Bobby Willis, has announced that the Rally will not be taking place in 2017. The decision has been made as a result of funding uncertainty.
Bobby Willis explains, “I have had the privilege of managing the Circuit of Ireland Rally since 2009. In that time the event has grown significantly and now hosts the prestigious European, British, Irish and Northern Ireland Championships. Last year we had in excess of 40 million television viewers worldwide, with similar numbers expected this year. Another hundred thousand viewers, in 130 countries followed the event via live streaming in what we believe to be a first for this scale of rally. Year on year the event has brought increasing social and economic dividends for Northern Ireland and, in particular, the tourism and hospitality sector. But the growing success and size of the event necessitates precise long term project planning, additional resources and inevitably more financial investment.”
“To date we have had fantastic support from Councils across Northern Ireland, Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland, private sponsorship and the NI Executive. I believe we have delivered an excellent return on investment for all our partners, with the substantial growth achieved in the last seven years. We have been working hard with all our funders to plan ahead for 2017 but regrettably at this point in time the financial resources required to deliver the event are still not in place. To run the Rally next year, in the current format, without the right resources and necessary planning period would be to do the Rally a gross disservice. I believe we cannot risk proceeding with the 2017 event at this point without financial certainty.”
“The decision not to run the Rally next year has been the most difficult one I have ever had to make and will be extremely disappointing for a wide range of people including the hundreds of volunteers who have contributed so much. The Circuit of Ireland Rally has reached a level of success unimaginable only a few years ago, attracting an enviable international entry list and with opportunities for even more growth within our grasp. For those reasons it is vital that the ‘Circuit of Ireland’ brand is protected for future generations. Whilst other options for a small, local rally may be considered for next year, my plan is to take the time to work closely with our partners to secure the necessary resources and plan for the Circuit of Ireland Rally to return in 2018 with an even better event.
Circuit of Ireland Rally
You will be aware that there are no confirmed fees for accessing the Welsh forests for stage rallies beyond 31 May, following the expiration of our previous Master Agreement in December 2015. In contrast, new 2016 agreements for England and Scotland were agreed in January, based on 2015 prices plus RPI at 0.7 per cent.
Due to the fact that negotiations with Natural Resources Wales (NRW) are ongoing, the MSA had not detailed the relevant figures publicly. However, since NRW has now published these figures on its website (click here) the MSA feels it appropriate to respond and bring you up to date with what is a very worrying situation for us all.
As you can see from the NRW figures, last year the MSA paid £339,000 for road repairs in the Welsh forests, but NRW says that its costs for reinstating the roads in 2015 actually totalled £655,000. NRW is currently negotiating on the firm basis that it will seek reimbursement of the total cost of reinstatement.
Assuming the quoted £655,000 figure is representative over more than one season, this would mean a doubling of Welsh forestry charges, and NRW currently intends to introduce these new rates from 1 June 2016.
The MSA continues to negotiate in an attempt to convince NRW (and the Welsh Government, of which NRW is a sponsored body) that rallying’s significance to Wales is felt far beyond the sport itself, and that this bigger picture must be taken into account during negotiations.
For us there are three separate but inextricably linked aspects to consider: the sport; the industry underpinning the sport; and economic impact upon – particularly rural – communities in Wales.
Regarding the sport, it is of course synonymous with Wales, both in terms of its heritage and also in the modern era as the host country for the UK’s round of the World Rally Championship, sponsored by the Welsh Government, with whom we enjoy an excellent and mutually beneficial relationship.
There is then the industry. Quoting from the Welsh Government’s Directory of Welsh Motorsport Companies 2014/2015: ‘Wales has a well-established automotive sector with over 150 companies employing more than 1500 workers generating a turnover of over £3billion annually.’ It continues: ‘In towns and valleys, nestled in industrial estates and enterprise parks are motorsport suppliers on the very top of their game. From high end engineering through to merchandising and clothing and racing circuits through to parts suppliers, Wales has a wealth of world class motorsport companies.’
Finally there is the economic impact. When a rally takes place in Wales, the immediate and calculable financial benefit is that competitors, marshals, officials and spectators visit the area for a day and often longer. The MSA has access to UK-wide data that, although now four years old, gives a good indication of this financial impact.
To summarise that data, based on a one-day forest event with 120 competing crews, to include arrival on the previous day and some staying over to the following day, competitors are estimated to bring approximately £99,500 to the region. Marshals, officials and visitors are estimated to bring £345,000, giving a combined total of £444,500. With 10 national forest events running in Wales, this equates to £4.45million.
If we add Wales Rally GB, which alone creates a staggering £10million for the Welsh economy, we can reasonably conclude that forest stage rallying is worth approximately £15million a year to Wales. And that does not even take into account the promotional value of these events, some of which have a global media reach.
We hope that NRW can look beyond its balance sheet and fully appreciate these many benefits, so that there can be much more opportunity for negotiation. And while we must now accept that there will inevitably be an increase in charges, these could certainly be far more realistic and also introduced over a greater period, rather than overnight, which could potentially have a catastrophic impact upon a proud part of Wales’ sporting heritage.
Your governing body will continue to seek the best possible deal but we should not be in any doubt that the immediate and long-term future of rallying in the Welsh forests is currently very uncertain.
In the meantime, we would encourage those of you voting in Wales on Thursday to contact your new or returning Assembly Member to ensure that they are fully aware of your concerns for what Wales may stand to lose.
And if you do not live in Wales but nonetheless have a stake in Welsh rallying, whether by competing, volunteering or spectating in the Welsh forests and thereby filling your petrol tanks on Welsh forecourts, eating in Welsh restaurants, sleeping in Welsh B&Bs or buying goods and services from Welsh motorsport companies, please also make sure that your voice is heard, before it is too late.
Yours in motorsport,
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