Slippery mud, sharp stones and changeable conditions
Hundreds have travelled far and wide to stand in a muddy forest in the middle of November just to see one of these pure-bred machines flyby
Slippery mud, sharp stones and changeable conditions
These three main elements make the FIA World Rally Championship’s visit to Wales Rally GB so challenging. It’s also the reason why hundreds of thousands of spectators flock from across the world to the Welsh countryside to experience this phenomenal display of driving talent.
It’s a sport like no other. Rallying is a sport of early mornings and late returns home. We left our accommodation every morning before the sun had even risen above the Welsh mountains. Most days seemed to involve a lot of driving, even for visiting stages fairly close. When you arrive at the stage you’re not faced with a beautifully smooth car park, just a single forest track road. After manoeuvring the car around to be parked on the side of the road (and covering the car with mud at the same time) we could don our waterproofs and head off to the stage. The stages are, unfortunately, never particularly close…
The worst bit about rallying is most definitely the waiting. After you’ve arrived at the stage 2 hours before anything even starts you sit and you wait. It’s probably what makes you appreciate the cars even more. Even waiting for the course car becomes somewhat of a game, by the end of the weekend we were loving the Volvo rally car used as the final check of the stages. When the cars finally come through it’s an assault on the senses. The noise, feel and even smells as they power through is something quite special.
Once again I’ve left a rally with the utmost respect for any professional rally photographer. The amount of planning and preparation that goes into it is just on a complete different planet to those of a circuit based photographer. It’s an element that I love though, the planning and looking at stage maps just makes it even more worthwhile when you nail that shot you’d had in your head for the past 3 weeks. My preparation consisted primarily of looking over the areas of the stages, using YouTube videos as references and generally scouting out the maps of the stages as well as utilising Google Earth and then generally panicking about the decisions made…
For the most part the stage choices paid off, whilst I would have liked to have wandered further into Gartheiniog and the night stage of Gywdyr perhaps wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, stages like Myherin, Llandegla & the Great Orme all exceeded expectations. There’s certainly some changes that I would do for next year.
A lot of not particularly great things have been said about the World Rally Championship in recent years, as well as Wales Rally GB for that matter. Lack of television coverage, timing issues, and a lack of serious works contenders have been just a few of problems. However people don’t seem to look past these issues towards what the World Rally Championship does right. For a start it provides relatively cheap weekends of world class motorsport in stunning locations with fantastic accessibility for the fans. They even open up the service parks for the free. You’d never get that level of accessibility in Formula 1 without a media pass. It’s also clear to see that spectators love it as you can get far closer to the action than any other motorsport.
The World Rally Championship also needs to be praised on its use of social media. Where some championships don’t communicate with the fans, or give the fans particularly what they want to see, the WRC excels in using social media to promote it’s events and get people excited. One of best bits of WRCs social media is the way it utilises YouTube. They upload everything to it; fan requests, onboards, special features, highlights, classic onboards and even full rallies all the way back to the early 2000s. Yes, that means you can go and relive your favourite rallies all over again.
Even the event organisers themselves should be praised about the way they handled certain situations that arose throughout the event. Yes, they weren’t prepared for the amount of people visiting Chirk Castle but they offered solutions to those who didn’t get into the event, offering free entry into another stage, as well as changing the entire way they dealt with traffic for the other remaining RallyFests. On the subject of RallyFests, this was a great idea by the organisers to give people a taste of rallying, yes they aren’t ‘proper’ stages but what a fantastic way of getting the next generation interested in rallying. Setting themselves up for the future…
Something that I’ve been banging on about all year is how Volkswagen have revolutionsed the sport. They’ve changed peoples perceptions of rallying and more importantly shown all the other teams how it should be done. Their RALLYTHEWORLD.com project has been an undoubted success giving people a hub of information on not just Volkswagen but all the rallies themselves. Providing high quality videos, interviews, previews and photographs to further emphasis the point that they think rallying is incredible – and they believe we should think that too.
I know WRC does have issues and it does need to improve to make sure the series has a sustainable future, but hopefully with the addition of Hyundai in the championship next year alongside the VW giants we should have an interesting fight on our hands and it’ll hopefully encourage more manufacturers to pull their socks up and get involved in a sport that could be on the rise again. Just think of the endless possibilities; Seat Ibiza, Mazda 2, Kia Rio, Audi A1, Peugeot 208, BMW 1 Series just to name a few ideas that popped into mine and Tom Loomes’ head.
The fans love the sport, you can tell that just by talking to any one of them. They’ll have travelled far and wide to stand in a muddy forest in the middle of November just to see one of these pure-bred machines flyby. The sport has the fans, it knows how to communicate with them, all it needs now is the manufacturers…
I hope you enjoy the remaining images from my first trip to the Rally of Legends, Wales Rally GB and hopefully I’ll be back for more FIA World Rally Championship action in future. My next event is, unfortunately, my last of the season and is the Premier Rally taking place in Sherwood Forest on the 24th of November.