A significantly different route for Rally GB 2018, Britain’s World Rally Championship round, is set to be revealed at the event launch in Llandudno on Monday.
The rally’s main base will remain the Deeside service park, but the organisers have used road-closing powers to produce an itinerary they feel addressing points raised by WRC teams and crews last season.
Instead of two days in mid-Wales and a day in the north, the October 4-7 event will include two days in north Wales and one long Saturday through the forests of mid-Wales.
For the first time since 1997, the Sweet Lamb-Hafren, Myherin and Dyfi, Gartheiniog and Dyfnant stages will all run on the same day. The organisers have labelled the 14-hour, nine-stage, 93-mile day ‘Super Saturday’.
As well as the headline road closure in Llandudno to achieve the showpiece Great Orme stage, Rally GB will take advantage of the public road law change to join the Brenig and Alwen stages using a section of the B4501 and to length the Penmachno and Gwydir stages using lanes.
Drivers’ primary complaint in 2017 was that they felt was an excessive amount of road-section mileage to get to the stage.
Making one instead of two trips to mid-Wales has cut that back considerably, as has ditching the RallyFest stage at Cholmondeley Castle.
Last year’s event included 188 competitive miles linked by 735 road miles. The 2018 route increases stage mileage by 20 miles and has 50 fewer road-section miles.
While there is no stately home spectator stage this season, the organisers will introduce the brand new Slate Mountain stage on Friday.
Crews will take two runs at this 0.80-mile test on the way back to service after an opening Friday morning loop including Clocaenog, Brenig and Penmachno.
Friday’s return to Deeside between the two loops of stages ticks a box for the teams, who were frustrated at the lack of a conventional midday service last season.
On Saturday the cars will remain in mid-Wales all day, only stopping in Newtown for the now customary tyre change at lunchtime.
Despite the FIA’s decision not to allow the Great Orme-Llandudno stage to be used for the powerstage, the route for Sunday remains identical to the original plan – the only change being that the bonus points will be offered for the first run through Gwydir.
Sunday now features two loops of Elsi (a new stage close to Betws-y-Coed), Gwydir and the all-asphalt headland stage that takes crews around Marine Drive and into Llandudno for a flying finish on the seafront.
The event starts with the same Tir Prince spectator stage as last year on Thursday October 4.