Why rallying must cut the number of events

Published on Wednesday March 07 2018

The Border Counties has been postponed, and now can’t find a date. Pic: Jakob Ebrey

I’ve just moved house, bear with me here, and I was terrified to see how many items of clothing I own. So much so, I’ve been driven to a cull of selling and charity-shopping old items in a bid to feel less disgusted with myself.

That’s about as weird an intro as you’ll ever get to a rally column, but I promise, it’s relevant. And here’s why.

Sometimes, it takes a chain of events – like my clothing crisis – to realise that something is wrong. I have a serious problem, and so does rallying. There’s too many multi-venue events. For rallying, that is…

A host of events last weekend were postponed, including the Mid Wales Stages, Malcolm Wilson Rally, Donington Rally and Bovington Stages.

Like my clothing issues, those events, indirectly and completely by accident, have simultaneously demonstrated and found out why there’s too many events in practice.

All those events mentioned had (or are having) struggles in deciding when they should run again.

Border Counties struggling for replacement date

Crowded calendar means trouble for the sport. Pic: Jakob Ebrey

Donington and Bovington have it easier as single-venue events, but the Mid Wales, Malcolm Wilson and now the Border Counties Rally, which is cancelled for this weekend coming, are having trouble slotting back in between championships and events onto the 2018 calendar. I’d wager at least one of them won’t be able to run. I hope I’m wrong.

If you read the recent rally special in Motorsport News, you’ll have an idea of some of the reasons why there are too many events.

The age-old argument is that events should be subjected to natural selection; if they don’t get strong entries they will die.

I disagree.

There are many events out there that have just enough to keep gong, treading water each year. But if its organisers merged with another event in the same area, it could make the existing event much stronger.

Roads would be used less and would be in better condition. More organisers could be dedicated to promoting the event to the local area, and the whole things grow stronger. More people want to enter rallies and the whole sport increases in popularity.

If events worked together they could boost interest and popularity. Pic: Jakob Ebrey

Obviously, it’s not all as easy as two sentences written on a piece of paper (or screen). No organiser will voluntarily want to give up its event, which it’s probably run for many years. So unless a higher body can enforce that in some way, it’s unlikely to happen.

In our recent feature I suggested a new branch of the MSA, working in a similar way to the Championship Steering Group – which doesn’t have the power to tell events they can’t run – but with added authority. Giving them the right to say that events can’t run in the date they’ve chosen, if at all. It’s hypothetical, but it would help with the problem.

The rot has set in and rallying is in a recurring spin cycle. A bit like my clothes. I’ve mentioned this too many times, but it’s so poignant; if team boss Martin Wilkinson, reliant on customers for his business to run, is saying there are too many events, therefore reducing his chance to take money from those customers in the process, surely there’s something wrong?

Discussion needs to occur as to how rallying proceeds, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing if the MSA, or an MSA-approved body, had some power to control the calendar better. Rallying would only benefit from it. And if there’s an influx of entries due to stronger events, who’s to say we couldn’t go back to having more events in the future?

Surely it’s a no-brainer?

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