Motorsport UK CEO Hugh Chambers has told DirtFish that Rally GB’s future lies with a closed-road event.
In what would be a significant break with the event’s history, Chambers advocates a Northern Ireland-based rally in 2022 before running a similar style event in Great Britain thereafter.
Initially included on the 2021 World Rally Championship calendar as Rally UK, reflecting the planned move across the Irish sea, the FIA and WRC Promoter confirmed earlier this month that it would be replaced by Ypres Rally in August.
“I think a closed-road approach is the right way to go,” said Chambers.
“We absolutely haven’t given up on Northern Ireland for next year. Bobby Willis [the Rally Northern Ireland organizer] is a tour de force of energy, he’s relentless in the way he plugs away at it and think that’s the way to go for 2022. We have to put our shoulder behind it and show both the enthusiasm and political nous to get it across the line.
“Beyond 2022, we have to come up with a different product and I’m sure it’s closed roads. For 2023, we need to look at the model from [closed-road] events like Monza and Ypres. I think Scotland is the sweet spot for that. We know Scotland has the cycling world championships in 2023, but we need to start lobbying at the right level on this.
“I’m relying very much on Iain [Campbell, Rally GB clerk of the course] and Andrew [Kellitt, Rally GB route co-ordinator] to reinvent themselves and inject some creative thinking and innovation. I want them to say: ‘Let’s forget what we’ve known and let’s completely re-start this’. That process began two months ago.
“We have to work with the FIA and the WRC Promoter to show we can put together a credible event. The challenge is to do this very, very quickly and at a much, much lower cost.”
Chambers said he had encouraged the Rally GB team to study the model of events like Rally Estonia, which he’s sure are being delivered at a budget below the £3m mark.
“I keep being told you can’t do a WRC round for less than £3m, and I just don’t believe these other guys are running to that sort of budget,” added Chambers.
“I believe you can put together an entirely credible rally for a lot less money. That’s the challenge I’m setting myself and the team.”
Any hope of reviving an agreement with Wales looks to be finished now after Cardiff rejected a proposal of rolling the 2020 budget into 2021.
Wales’ investment in the rally has been on a sliding scale since the introduction of the last three-year deal in 2019. That year’s investment was £1.25 million, and was cut to £850,000 for what would have been year three in 2021.
The Motorsport UK target is run a rally for just less than £2m, which includes the £700,000 take from ticket sales.