The announcement of the Rally 2WD initiative is an important one for gravel rallying. I hope it will be a significant catalyst in helping reverse the alarming decline in the general health of a branch of the sport I have loved for half a century.
I must declare an interest here, as I’ve been involved in this project for more than 12 months now, working with Simon Wallis and Alan Walker. Simply, we are three Shropshire-based enthusiasts who want to see a long and healthy future for gravel rallying and we believe Rally 2WD can be part of that story.
We’ve all chewed over the changes to running order that have helped get us to the point where most gravel rallies in 2017 to date have lost money. That is unsustainable and there are a number of events on the ‘at risk’ list right now.
Most of us have grumbled about going to one field seeded in performance order as dictated by the MSA in the aftermath of the Jim Clark Rally accident. But moan as much as we like, and I’ve been as critical in print as any, it’s not going to change in the foreseeable future.
So, we started deliberating from the point of accepting that the running order was here to stay and whatever we proposed for the future had to work within the constraints of the MSA’s directives and the role of the on-event Safety Delegates.
Learning from the success of the Pirelli Rally in running two fields, albeit with a major time gap on this two-day event, we worked out that it was possible to run split fields on one-day rallies.
It’s not going to work on every event, but it is possible on those rallies with limited road mileage between stages and a service area close to the forest block. The concept is in full accordance with the requirement of the Safety Delegate being able to check each stage shortly ahead of the first car in both halves of the rally.
After months of work and a raft of meetings, we have a plan, as announced elsewhere in this week’s issue of Motorsport News. The two-wheel drives do their entire rally and then the four-wheel drives do the same.
We know it’s not going to gain a rapturous reception from the four-wheel drive crews but that is where the vital work of Rally4Wales will play a key part. For sure, the roads in Wales are now being superbly regraded and are, finally, fully fit for purpose. The two-wheel drives will do less damage and we fervently hope that the four-wheel drives will find entirely acceptable stage conditions when they arrive.
Will it work? We believe that it is a project worthy of support from the many two-wheel drive crews who have fallen out of love with the forests. Please come and give it a try on one or more of the three intended rallies in 2018. Gravel rallying needs support if the current alarming decline is to be halted.