A campaign Rally4Wales has been launched to fight against a significantly increase in the charges for forest rallying in Wales and with it a petition to the Welsh Government has been undertaken urging that costs are kept at a fair level and in line with costs in England and Scotland.
That petition has now gone live on the Welsh Assembly website and we desperately need everyone involved in motorsport to sign it to show the strength of opposition to these unreasonable proposals. It may be Wales at the moment but there are grave concerns that such level of charges could move to England and Scotland forests.
The link to the e-petition is https://www.assembly.wales/en/gethome/e-petitions/Pages/petitiondetail.aspx?PetitionID=943 It only takes a few minutes to sign and you don’t have to live in Wales to sign it.
The Motor Sports Association (MSA) and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) have reached a temporary agreement allowing the Severn Valley Stages to proceed as planned on 4 June, and the MSA is encouraging crews to submit their entries as soon as possible.
The Severn Valley Stages is based in Builth Wells and organised by Midland Manor Motor Club. It is a round of the MSA British Historic Rally Championship and the MSA Welsh Rally Championship.
Rob Jones, MSA Chief Executive, said: “This is excellent news for the dedicated organising team behind the Severn Valley Stages, who have continued to work hard on their pre-event preparation despite the current uncertainty. What Midland Manor Motor Club need now is for the rallying community to turn out in force on 4 June, so we would please encourage all crews considering competing to get their entries in now. The MSA appreciates the fact that NRW has worked closely with us to achieve this accommodation for the Severn Valley Stages.”
Keith Ashley, Clerk of the Course for the Severn Valley Stages, said: “Going ahead as planned is absolutely brilliant news after the uncertainty of the last few weeks. It is also good for both the sport and the volunteers who have spent 12 months organising the rally. We’re extremely grateful to senior management at both the MSA and NRW for their positive approach and willingness to bring forward solutions to a difficult problem. Extending the previous cut-off date for the 2015 fees as a one-off measure will enable the 43rd running of the Severn Valley Stages to go ahead.”
The MSA and NRW continue to work together to negotiate a wider agreement for forest stage rallying in Wales.
Image courtesy of RallySportMedia.
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,
Hayden Paddon may be the first driver from New Zealand to win a round of the WRC but the young gun has been aided by an old hand. Co-driver John Kennard is 55 years old and the Kiwi has been rallying since 1985. Paddon may be only 29 but he produced a mature drive last month on Rally Argentina to beat Sebastien Ogier by 14.3 seconds. Ok perhaps Hayden had the better road position for the first two days but he kept his head to thrash the World Champion’s VW Polo on the final power stage by 11.2s and seal the rally win. Just like Northern Ireland’s Kris Meeke had done last year Paddon added his name to the exclusive club of World Championship rally winners and they both did so on the roughest, toughest round of the series.
It was also a great result for Hyundai as this was the first victory for the brand new i20. Well done to Paddon and Kennard who settled his young driver and made him say focused and totally calm throughout the three gruelling days.
Alastair Fisher is another young gun going places. Following his great third place on the recent Circuit of Ireland, the Ford Fiesta R5 driver and co-driver Gordon Noble finished second overall on the latest round of the Irish Tarmac Championship; the Killarney Rally of the Lakes. Fisher was beaten only by a much more powerful 2-litre WRC Ford Focus (which cannot score points this year) so effectively won the rally and took maximum points.
Gordon Noble is 65 and had been co-driving since 1987. The Omagh man has competed in over 400 events. His vast experience has no doubt helped the 26-year-old Fisher steady his game and become a more complete driver. Alastair now leads the Tarmac series.
I shall watch with interest the rest of the season in both the WRC and the Irish series with regard to the progress of Hayden Paddon/John Kennard and Alastair Fisher/Gordon Noble.
David Llewellin/Phil Short won the Circuit of Ireland in their MG Metro 6R4. This was the first 4-wheel-drive win and the only 6R4 victory. Russell Brookes/Mike Broad and Austin McHale/Christy Farrell were second and third in Opel Manta 400’s. There were 51 stages over 5 days. Rothmans sponsored the Belfast-based event which over-nighted in Waterford.
Steven Finlay/Robbie Philpott in their Ford Escort Cosworth won the Circuit from Andrew Nesbitt/George Millar’s Toyota Celica GT4. Liam O’Callaghan/James O’Brien also in a GT4 were third. The rally ran for 4 days from Friday to Monday. It started and finished in Bangor with an overnight halt in Limerick on Saturday. This was my second year as Chief Timekeeper.
Kenny McKinstry won the Easter Stages on the Monday in his Escort RS2000 from Derek McGarrity’s Cosworth.
84 competitors head into the forests of Derry/Tyrone for this the third round of the Northern Ireland Championship. The Magherafelt and District MC event is also a round of the Valvoline Irish National Forest Championship. We will be assisting with rescue, timing, radio cover and marshals. A 10.30 start from Walsh’s Hotel in Maghera sees the the cars head for 8 gravel stages before the finish at 16.30.
North Armagh MC are running this annual clubman tarmac rally for 2-wheel-drive cars. We will be marshalling and covering radio points as usual. Sign-on is normally 8am.
The Police MC’s Targa Rally is based at the Ballinderry Inn. Contact John Erwin if you are available to assist. We will be supplying marshals. Sign on 8am.