Wales Rally GB and other forest events are facing the axe in Wales.
Forestry owner Natural Resources Wales wants to increase their charge to cover event preparation and reinstatement costs. There is a £316,000 gap between what the governing body of motor sport pays to NRW and what it costs to manage the forests for rallying.
Rally organisers in England and Scotland have agreed to pay up to £688 per mile but Wales is still discussing the contract with the Motor Sports Association which expires at the end of May after being twice extended.
Rally clubs fear a higher forestry charge would have to be passed onto competitors and they are less likely to enter, possibly forcing the cancellation of events after entries open.
MSA boss Welshman Rob Jones is reported to have said, “Unfortunately, we have yet to reach agreement with NRW, which is currently seeking an increase that would be unworkable for rallying in Wales and thereby detrimental to the country’s hugely successful motor sport industry and also to the many local communities that benefit from the sport.
“However, we continue to work hard on behalf of the sport in Wales and with discussions continuing we remain confident of reaching agreement with NRW as soon as possible.”
NRW head of enterprise David Edwell said in a statement, “We have a long and proud history of staging rallying events in Welsh forests and are working closely with the Motor Sports Association to reach an agreement that will allow this to continue.
“Under our previous agreement the MSA paid £339,000 in stage rally charges but in 2015 the actual cost to NRW to reinstate the roads used for rallying was £655,000.
“It is, however, important that the costs we incur in preparing the forests for these events and repairing the roads afterwards are recovered so we can deliver the wide range of other services these areas provide to the people of Wales.”
It is understood the two sides are working on compromise solutions to allow motor sport to continue in the forests and maintain their income and interest from spectators and sponsors.
There is increasing demand on the forests to provide access for walkers, bikers and horse-riders and the woodland estate has to be efficiently managed for everyone.
Apart from WRGB in October, the Welsh forests are used in British and Welsh championships throughout the year and also by Enduro bikers.