Tuesday’s Wales Rally GB launch has been cancelled after the FIA refused to sign off on this year’s route.
The organisers of Britain’s World Rally Championship qualifier will now have to rethink the final day of the October event after the governing body declined a planned powerstage using the all-asphalt Great Orme test, which had been extended into the centre of Llandudno.
The original route had the Deeside-based event concluding with Britain’s first ever world championship-level competition running through a town.
There’s confusion within the Rally GB organising team about the FIA’s reasoning for denying the Great Orme/Llandudno test, given that the headland stage (albeit without the town centre element) was included on the 2015 Wales Rally GB itinerary without any problems.
The local council had planned for between 30 and 40,000 people to cram into Llandudno for the stage and podium celebrations.
Motorsport.com understands the FIA’s concerns are safety-related, but also that the Great Orme/Llandudno stage would not be worthy of the five bonus points on offer for the powerstage. Regulation 13.3.1 of the WRC’s sporting regulations dictates that the powerstage should: “Be representative of the rally.”
FIA rally director Yves Matton reportedly argues the proposed test is not. Asked on the record for news of the Rally GB route, Matton told Motorsport.com: “We are in discussion with the Rally GB organiser about their route, it is too early to say more at the moment.”
Wales Rally GB managing director Ben Taylor wouldn’t be drawn on the situation, stating: “We have sent our route to the FIA and the teams to get their feedback and approval as is normal. This year’s route does contain some radical proposals that we believe will create a fantastic event, but in order to deliver them we require a degree of support from the FIA. We’re now working with the governing body and WRC Promoter to make sure everybody gets what they want from our rally.”
A source close to the event said: “Really? It’s too dangerous? We’ve just come from Corsica and folk are saying the Great Orme’s dangerous…”
Opinion among the drivers about the inclusion of the stage is split, with some wanting to stay in the woods and some being able to see the promotional value of bringing 30,000 fans into Llandudno to watch a rally.
One senior team principal told Motorsport.com: “I don’t understand what the problem is here… we have the chance to do something exceptional, something which will genuinely bring the rally to the people and the drivers are crying about it. The drivers are professionals, they should do their jobs: drive where their co-drivers tell them to drive and let the organisers run the rally.
“If this doesn’t happen it’s a stupid decision from the FIA and it’s a huge missed opportunity for the promoter. Sometimes, I don’t understand this sport – we wonder why we stay hidden away behind the trees.”