Writing negative things and channelling less than positive reviews from competitors about this year’s Rally Isle of Man was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do.
Without getting teary-eyed and emotional, it’s the event that opened my eyes to rallying, with Patrick Snijers and his ‘forceful driving’ in 1988.
Some competitors had no issue with last year’s event, but some did, and the need for change, to me, was obvious after two consecutive years of multiple delays to stages.
Instead of getting caught up and getting into arguments with everyone about what happened, the event’s bosses have been silent since putting out a statement at the time. It has handled the situation with dignity.
And the praise doesn’t stop there. Providing a clerk of the course for each championship should improve the communication between competitor and event which was inconsistent last year, and the addition of Neil Cross, a no-nonsense get things done kind of person, is a brilliant move.
The event has the benefit of the fact that it made a profit last year, and it’s pumping those profits back in. Instead of the many off-island organisers seeing stages for the first time on the event proper, many will be invited over beforehand to survey the route and to get some training. This is a fantastic move which should help the stages to run more smoothly.
The route using stages more than once is also fine, after all, they are some of the best asphalt roads close to the UK. It also means marshals won’t be traipsing around the island as far and will have to travel less frequently, which should also help.
Condensing the event should allow it to run with less delays and lower the costs for competitors, as they won’t need to be on the island as long for recceing, especially the Irish. They can now come over on the Wednesday thanks to a new ferry deal. Given that the drivers on these events are businessmen paying to rally, less days away is vital and that should be achievable this year.
And the merges, well I don’t think anyone will miss those. They were a good idea to increase mileage, but created far more problems than they solved. I know, I waited around on the roadside for rally cars for over an hour like every other fan.
The event featured problems last year that were well documented, and perhaps the over-the-top response of some competitors was down to the fact that not a lot had changed from 2016 to 2017, where most of the same problems existed or new ones were found.
So this change of, well, it feels like everything, should go some way to righting the wrongs. After all, the event constantly offers up a thrilling battle on the stages.
A hearty well done to John Gill and his team. Hopefully the proof is in the pudding and I look forward to returning to the island, if I’m still invited…