First published December 2015.
WELSH and RAC OBSERVATIONS by Nigel Raeburn.
This year I splashed out and spent 4.99 Euros to subscribe to wrc+ so that I was able to watch some of Wales Rally GB (the RAC as we knew it) live from the comfort of my computer desk. It was good value and I enjoyed several stages shown live as well as daily summary programmes. I can’t say all the commentary was to my taste, but it was not bad and considering the terrible weather conditions the picture quality was pretty good although they needed a few more cameras (and/or better directing) to give more continuous coverage of a stage. Respect to the marshals and organisers for the event running almost to time despite the dreadful weather and also the discovery of a skeleton near the route on the final day! As a general comment on rally broadcasting I do think too much camera work is in close-up – to properly appreciate the driving you need a perspective from a distance to see the lines taken.
The rally itself is getting a bit closer to the good old days – at least they have some night stages now and limited servicing. Sebastian Ogier seems to be as good as Sebastian Loeb was – the in-car shots showing how under control and smooth his driving is, making it look much easier than it can really be. Together with Sebastian Vettel it’s clear what name you should have to be successful in motorsport these days – and I read he is interested in doing some rallying when he finishes with F1!
It was good to see Kris Meeke get a good result (my old driver and still good friend Cyril Bolton used to liaise on rally preparation work with Kris’ dad Sidney) and Elfyn Evans (son of course of Gwyndaf – MN road rally champion, works stage driver and this year doing a bit of commentating on wrc+) a fair result too – let’s hope they both get good drives for next year.
Quite some changes afoot in the historic world in the events which try to re-live the good old days of the RAC Rally. I’m not party to any inside information but it’s sad that the Roger Albert Clark R.A.C. stage rally has had to be cancelled with insufficient entries – making it financially unviable. Maybe they have lost their way as this year’s event looked a bit like a long ‘single venue’ rally in Kielder when the attraction to many of this revived RAC was the trek round the country element linking back to the RACs of the 60s and 70s when it visited all corners of the UK. Let’s hope in 2017, when the event hopes to return, a format with greater appeal to entrants can be found.
It seems that litter left in forests by spectators has become an issue – it was cited as a reason why the R.A.C. was not allowed to use the Yorkshire forests this year. Also a letter was published in the Daily Telegraph highlighting the problem of litter after Wales Rally GB – more column inches devoted to this than to the rally itself! I hate litter and it is a disgrace that it has become a problem linked to our sport.
Hot on the tail of the news of the ‘R.A.C.’ cancellation comes the news that the 2016 Rally of the Tests will be called the RAC Rally of the Tests with support from the Royal Automobile Club. The RotT is of course well established as a historic road rally run by HERO/CRA covering long stretches of the country (different each year) visiting venues often used on past RAC rallies. As far as I can gather this format will not change but there will be more effort put into making the event accessible for spectators and I guess more publicity – already I see efforts to refocus on the origins and history of the RAC Rally in the years since it first ran in 1932. The 2016 route starts in Bournemouth, has overnight stops in Bristol and Stoke and ends (after a visit to the Peak District) at Chester – so there should be good opportunities for our Area to get involved. The dates are 3rd to 6th November.
There is a chequered history to attempts to re-live the RAC – the Lombard Revival Rally for endurance formula hatchback cars started well under Philip Young’s leadership but has sadly faded away to nothing and the endurance rally formula has almost disappeared too. Certainly there is a need for something cheaper than stage rallying – and the new spectator safety requirements on organisers seem to be having a major impact on modern stage rallying with some events (eg Colin McRae Forest Stages) being cancelled. So we watch with interest to see how the sport evolves.