Fresh hope for 2021 Rally GB after funding boost

Money set aside for 2020's canceled WRC round could keep Rally GB in Wales next year


Rally GB’s chances of a slot on next year’s World Rally Championship look to have been boosted by the potential for funding from this year’s canceled event to be carried forward into next season.

The Deeside-based event was ruled out in June when Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford made it clear there would be no major sporting events in the fall.

While there has been much talk of Rally GB’s departure from the principality, the event still offers significant global profile for Wales – a point not lost in along Cardiff’s political corridors.

It’s from within those corridors that DirtFish understands there’s increasing impetus being put behind returning Rally GB to the WRC calendar next year.

Rally GB currently sits outside the list of nine events announced by the FIA and contracted for the 2021 WRC.

Hugh Chambers, chief executive of Rally GB organizer Motorsport UK remains optimistic Rally GB could still join the 2021 calendar. That optimism comes off the back of a detailed financial analysis of the 2019 Rally GB’s economic impact.

Chambers said: “A number of factors will determine next year’s WRC calendar but, for all the positive reasons outlined in these audited figures, both Motorsport UK and the Welsh Government, our principal funding partner, are optimistic that we will see the WRC back in the Welsh forests in 2021.

“This major event has a enormous economic benefit and drives people’s livelihoods. Its presence will not only generate a lot of excitement but will also play a significant role in the country’s post pandemic recovery.”  

The last time the WRC visited Wales it generated an economic impact of close to £10m from more than 100,000 visitors. With 654 hours of television broadcast to 46.4 million people in more than 150 countries, the potential for using the WRC to sell Wales to the world is clear.

“Last year’s world championship rally was a huge success on so many different levels,” added Chambers. “These cars are the fastest the sport has ever seen and, thus, in themselves an enormous attraction.

“This appeal, in turn, creates huge interest and substantial economic activity throughout mid and north Wales.

“Whether its hoteliers, shop keepers, garage owners or the many local business that play a vital part in the successful staging of a world championship event, there are so many winners when the WRC entertains in north Wales.

“Wales, too, is a big winner with its many attractions showcased to audiences around the world.”

Next season would be the final year of a three-year agreement between Motorsport UK and the Welsh government. The originally planned year-three funding would, DirtFish understands, fall short of the required budget to run Britain’s WRC round. Rolling some of the saved 2020 cash into next season would be enough to firm up the event’s financial footing.

After June’s WMSC in revealed nine contracted events for 2021 (Monte Carlo, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, Kenya, Finland, Spain, Japan and Australia), there was talk of the calendar being completed in time for October’s WMSC.

With this year’s schedule of events still a work in progress, it appears increasingly unrealistic to expect a definitive 2021 calendar in two months.

Words:David Evans