Wales Rally GB gets extended government backing, is it enough?

There are several WRC events in line for an execution – one of them is, more or less, set to go if the WRC is about to introduce a new event to its calendar. According to some sources, and promoters themselves, Wales Rally GB was one of those events – by ditching GB we would get an empty spot for China to fill. Perhaps Wales Rally GB is still on that list, but today’s news are encouraging for this event’s future.

Welsh Government will support and fund the event for three more years. If we consider funding to be one of the key elements for any event’s future, we should be able to assume Wales Rally GB did their job and should remain in the calendar. But even though funding news are nice and a reason for optimism, perhaps promoters are looking beyond (just) that? Well, maybe they are, but unless we’re dealing with 13 events with fully functional funding schemes, there is still room for changes and improvement. For example, the chief example is Rallye de France – they scrapped the cash for 2015 somehow, but will Tour de Corse survive into 2016 is hard to guess. For now, we haven’t heard much about their long-term plans.

If France ends up securing their own money deal, promoters will have to look beyond cash in order to find one event to remove from calendar (if that’s how things must go, that is). Some critics say that, in its current format, Wales Rally GB is “just another identikit WRC event”, bearing “no resemblance to the glorious RAC rally of the past”.

If only we could stop measuring events by their financial strength and look into sporting side of it. Or would that just produce even more problems? Because if sporting and driving appeal and quality are only criteria, why the hell Rally New Zealand isn’t in the calendar?

Wales Rally GB press release follows:

International Motor Sports (IMS) Ltd is delighted to confirm that it has reached agreement with the Welsh Government to continue its support of Wales Rally GB until the end of 2018.

The UK’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) has been branded Wales Rally GB since the Welsh Government became principal funding partner in 2003. Now, a new deal will extend this successful partnership for an additional three years making it one of the longest running title affiliations in British sport.

Ben Taylor, Managing Director of IMS, said: “We are delighted to have agreed a new deal with the Welsh Government whose support has been critical to the long standing success of Wales Rally GB. Their forward thinking strategy allows our event to deliver around £10m of economic value to the Welsh economy in addition to a world-class event that brings business, tourism and many other commercial benefits to the country. The move to north Wales has been a great success in recent years; we can now look forward to building on that platform and implementing exciting new plans to grow the event still further. The Welsh Government’s extended support for this international event is fantastic news not only for rallying in Wales but also for the motor sport sector in the UK.”

The Economy Minister, Edwina Hart, said: “I’m pleased that we can announce an extension to our successful partnership with IMS to support the Wales Rally GB for a further three years. This world class event continues to go from strength to strength and has developed a strong profile on the World Rally Championship calendar.

“Developments such as the Rallyfest stages have proved invaluable in appealing to a wider audience, making the sport more open and accessible to all, attracting more visitors and bringing additional economic benefits as a result.

“The Rally provides an ideal platform for Wales to showcase its wide range of capabilities, including its spectacular sceneries, Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Industries and its ability to successfully deliver world-class major events. With the funding now in place, we can look forward to an even greater event in 2016.”

Wales Rally GB is the highlight of the UK rallying calendar and is renowned around the globe as one of the most famous and challenging in the WRC. It’s one of only two events that have remained a permanent fixture since the WRC’s inception in 1973 and the timed competitive special stages set in the legendary Welsh forests are acclaimed as some of the world’s finest.

The roster of Wales Rally GB winners includes a raft of World Champions including Petter Solberg (2003, 2004 & 2005), Marcus Gronholm (2006), Sébastien Loeb (2008, 2009 & 2010) and, most recently, reigning title-holder Sébastien Ogier (2013 & 2014).

Wales Rally GB was based in south Wales from 2003 to 2012 before its relocation to a new headquarters in north Wales in 2013.