By Phil Jobson
Having fallen in love with Wales through rallying, I’m gutted to now read that Natural Resources Wales (NRW) plan to recover the whole cost of forest road restoration from MSA and therefore largely from competitors. The impact of unsustainable forestry charges will, of course, spell the end of forest rallying in Wales. Not only is the passion for the sport in Wales extensive, but rallying provides remote rural communities with huge investment from competitors, support crews and spectators. The levels of such revenue would not be available from other activities.
It would seem utterly logical, and make economic sense to me, for the MSA and Welsh Government to subsidise any gap in forest road restoration. From their figures, this would amount to just over £300,000, a pittance in comparison to the many millions forest rallying attracts to these rural areas. But why should there be such a massive cost in forest road restoration in the first place? What came of the discussions a number of years ago of redesigning tyres to cause less damage to forest roads?
I spent an enjoyable morning marshalling a chicane on SS6 of the Pirelli Carlisle Rally with Simon and John Ross. I then returned home to watch F1 Russia – which reminded me of the revenue MSA must derive from that highly lucrative highly commercial event.
Three things were obvious to me.
- The installation of chicanes on narrow single track forest roads exacerbates forest road damage because cars inevitably cut entry and exit from the chicane, eroding the road edges.
- The presence of chicanes does absolutely nothing to ‘reduce speed’ because there will always be sections that are flat, and that means maximum geared speed regardless. Bogey times are no more than an academic statistic creating more headaches for organisers.
- The greater traction through all four wheels of the more powerful 4WD cars cause more damage than 2WD cars.
The way forward to me seems to engage with Forestry Commission, NRW etc to address their concerns, to explain the nonsense of Bogey Times – perhaps send one of their representatives through a 70mph average stage with David Bogie (hey, that seems apt!) and see how frequently he still clocks north of 115mph.
- Do away with Bogey Times.
- Apply different entry fees through the Class system, applying a loading to top WRC cars in Rally (Wales???) GB
- Subsidise forest restoration through MSA and public funding where events are deemed to benefit the wider rural economy and club competitors.