With Rally GB cancellation understood to be looming large on the horizon, DirtFish talked to Motorsport UK CEO Hugh Chambers about the challenges facing the Deeside-based event right now.
DirtFish: What were your thoughts on the Welsh First Minister’s comments regarding the difficulties associated with running sporting events in the autumn in Wales, over the weekend?
Hugh Chambers: Obviously, we’re working with the Welsh Government as we always do – as we have done for the last 21 years – and we need to look carefully at this.
The future is very unpredictable. We all know the goalposts are moving all the time and it’s difficult to predict where we’re going to be in the autumn. Everybody here is moving heaven and earth to try to pin down as many variables as possible at this time.
DirtFish: Is it possible to postpone? There’s not much time, but could you move the event back, maybe into December?
HC: The later you go in the calendar, the greater the challenges are organizationally.
Back in the good old days the event ran through the night, but now the challenge around spectators – and this is the catch-22 with our rally and most rallies – you have a great number of spectators out and about in the countryside and managing those people, when darkness falls, would be even more difficult.
DirtFish: What about the potential for a two-day event? That would hurt ticket sales…
HC: We are reliant on ticket sales, but more broadly we’re very reliant on the co-operation of the local community and you’ve got this catch-22, where you need to have the support of the local community and you need to have lots of visitors; if you took a snapshot right now then clearly those two don’t mix very well and it’s a question of what’s going to progress and what’s going to happen over the next five months. To some extent, it’s anybody’s guess. Nobody knows how this is going to progress.
DirtFish: Is it more complicated having Wales as a sponsor at this time, when the message from the government is not to go to Wales?
HC: The Welsh government has been fantastic and they’re not just dealing with the rally, but a whole load of major events through the summer and into the autumn. They’re well-versed in trying to navigate these challenges.
There’s a big difference between a stadium event and an outdoor event, obviously, but as we’ve said rallying has its own challenges. While it’s outside, there’s a requirement for emergency crews, medical crews, marshals, officials, all of whom have to socially interact.
Maybe at Brands Hatch you can have a very controlled environment, but it’s much harder out in the Welsh forests.
DirtFish: If I asked you to put odds on Wales Rally GB running this year, what would they be?
HC: I wouldn’t like to put odds on it at this stage, it’s a moving discussion going on at the moment and, in the next day or so, I think we’ll get a little bit more clarity on that.