Rally GB shake-up to include closed roads

Group Rallying Editor

This year’s Wales Rally GB route is set for its biggest overhaul since the World Rally Championship round moved from Cardiff, with closed roads featuring for the first time.

The event moved to Deeside in 2013 and has comprised stages in mid- and north Wales since.

Last week the Welsh Government sanctioned the devolution of power to suspend the road traffic act to British motorsport’s governing body, the Motor Sports Association, and the local authority in the area.

That will allow Rally GB organisers to make adjustments to a route that has been criticised in recent years.

The primary change for the October 4-7 event will be an expanded itinerary in north Wales and a return to Deeside for a lunchtime service on either Friday or Saturday.

Event managing director Ben Taylor and route co-ordinator Andrew Kellitt were on the stages and planning changes last week.

“It gives us the chance for a complete re-fresh of the route,” said Taylor.

“It doesn’t change the stages we have on offer, but it definitely does change the way we can use them.

“Looking at the stages last week, it’s really exciting to see what’s possible.

“We’ve always said we’re not advocating the use of mile upon mile of closed public road, that’s not the nature of this rally. What we’re looking at for this year is the chance to close small sections of public road.”

Changes will most likely be made in north Wales in the Clocaenog/Brenig/Alwen complex and in Penmachno and Gwydir.

“The Penmachno forest has traditionally offered two six kilometre (3.72 miles) stages with North and South split by a public road,” said Taylor.

“Including those stages wasn’t the most efficient use of our superb marshalling force, but closing 10 feet of pubic road means we link them together into a 12-kilometre stage which we can use twice. That makes a lot of sense.”

A full day in the north will mean compacting last year’s Friday and Saturday mid-Wales action into one day.

Two full days of competition in mid- and north Wales are also likely to compromise the Cholmondeley Castle RallyFest stage.

The Cheshire stately home’s inclusion has been contentious in recent years; two years ago, organisers were criticised for an early finish on Saturday when the crews started the last forest stage at 1:18pm, followed that with a run around Cholmondeley and then headed to service.

Last year, manufacturers complained the cars were only in service briefly after Cholmondeley – having spotlights fitted – before heading into two dark stages.

The distance to the mid-Wales stages rules out a return for midday service on that day.

Taylor said: “I understand the concerns of the teams and this is why I’m determined to get the cars back for a proper lunchtime service this time.”

Other RallyFest options that make geographical sense include Kinmel Park, which was used in 2013 and ’14 and is considerably closer to Deeside.

Night stages also look set to be ruled out this year.

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