This event – when it was the iconic Lombard RAC, then Network Q – is what made me a petrolhead, motoring journalist and lifelong rally fan.
Standing stage-side as a young boy, obligatory bobble hat on and armed with an airhorn, I witnessed the legendary Group B cult cars – 205 T16, Delta Integrale, Audi Quattro – spit flames and gravel, wastegates chattering: I was hooked.
I adored that era of rallying, but I’m not all misty-eyed. The event, the cars and the world of rallying evolved and I moved with it – always enjoying this unique, special sport. But, in recent years, our only British WRC round – Wales Rally GB – had lost its way, and the crowds, and buzz that always went with them. I’m not sure, but it may have even come close to losing WRC favour too: A tragedy.
Cue a re-think, a revitalisation of this historic, amazing, challenging event. And boy, did MSA Chairman, Alan Gow and all the Wales Rally GB team work wonders this year – new North Wales base, night stages, the introduction of family-friendly ’RallyFest’ stages, lively ceremonial start/finish, pop concerts… the lot.
And, best of all, 196-miles of some of the best, most challenging, technical, slippery, tricky and epochal special stages in the world – Hafren, Sweet Lamb, Myherin, Gartheiniog, Dyfi… names that sing harder than a male voice choir to rally fans the world over.
The event re-brand – and targeted, hard work of the PR and social media team – not only created what is essentially a new Wales Rally GB event, but it did something even more magical… it brought the crowds back, and with it the uniquely Welsh forest flavour. And the WRC and National drivers did not disappoint either… as you will read in our latest magazine above.