Elfyn Evans has questioned British motorsport’s governing body Motorsport UK’s desire to host a round of the World Rally Championship again.
Rally GB has been missing from the calendar since 2019, despite the efforts of a team led by Bobby Willis to reestablish the event in Northern Ireland.
The UK’s WRC round had been a forest event based exclusively in Wales since the year 2000, but a lack of government funding made the event impossible to run beyond 2019.
However, a new international event, Rali Ceredigion, has recently been staged in Wales earlier this month on closed public Tarmac roads.
Evans was in attendance as his father Gwyndaf was rallying the Ford Escort Mk2 Elfyn commissioned 2003 world champion co-driver Phil Mills to build, and was impressed by what he saw.
“The enthusiasm and the effort that is going in by the rally organizers and by Ceredigion is by far, I think, the highest in the UK,” Evans told DirtFish, when asked if Rali Ceredigion was good enough for the European Rally Championship or even the WRC.
“I think the evidence of that showed at the weekend. So, yeah, I wouldn’t discount it in the future.
“I drove some of the stages that were proposed for next year’s route, and they obviously have a lot more roads available which are really fantastic, to be honest.
“I think they have the ingredients, but the question is do Motorsport UK really want a rally? Because it doesn’t seem like that at the moment.
“It’s a mystery to me how we’re in a relatively key market in terms of all the manufacturers, there’s massive enthusiasm for the sport, we have some of the best gravel stages as well as now the possibility for Tarmac, and yet we can’t make it happen.
“It’s not great.”
Asked why he thinks the UK has ended up in a situation where it has no round of the WRC, despite several of Motorsport UK’s top brass previously working for Prodrive and the Subaru World Rally Team, Evans admitted it’s “hard to say”.
“I obviously don’t know the ins and outs of it, and of course there’s always hurdles, but let’s say there’s also… Well, I can see a lack of youngsters coming through, and it’s the whole ladder from the British championship all the way through to having that pinnacle event in what was Wales Rally GB for all these people to aim for.
“I think it is popular. And I think to a point it is successful when the events are put on right. I think that was evident to see even in the last Rally GB we had.
“It was massively supported and massively enjoyed by a lot of people. But it’s just not happening.”
However, when contacted for a response, Motorsport UK CEO Hugh Chambers assured DirtFish that MUK is still pushing hard to add the UK back into the WRC calendar.
Chambers said: “The central question from Elfyn is: ‘Does Motorsport UK want it?’
“Well, I think the simple answer to that is, would Dave Richards, World Rally Champion in 1981, chairman of Motorsport UK, really want to have the WRC? And I think the obvious answer is yes.
“And likewise [for me], after 10 years at Prodrive winning multiple titles it’s very much in our blood.
“But there comes a point, and I think this is the conundrum for us, we are at the end of the day a membership organization and we are multi-disciplined and our revenue comes from across the whole spectrum.
“And when the last WRC event was slated for the UK, the business model meant we were going to lose hundreds of thousands of pounds and that’s not something that we can sign off on.
“The good news is we’re a non-commercial operator, we don’t need or want to make a profit out of it, but we also can’t lose huge amounts of money and the business model for a WRC round in the UK means that you need in the region of £1-1.2million of external third-party funding.
“And for whatever reason, and it’s a broader discussion, a single WRC event in the UK doesn’t attract commercial sponsorship at that sort of level.
“It may have done historically but it just simply doesn’t [anymore], so the source of funding – given that you’ve got very restricted spectator income, you’ve got pretty defined entry fees from competitors – has to come from government.
“I think there’s a general political will in Northern Ireland but a broken political model to be able to actually legislate it and make it happen.
There are other paths – we’re continuing conversations with the Welsh government, continuing conversations with the bodies of the Scottish government that relate to us and it’s an ongoing project.
“It’s enormously frustrating, it really is. It’s the missing one, if you like. I can assure you the absence of Rally GB from the WRC isn’t for the want of trying.”