World Rally Championship organisers will meet in Geneva tomorrow and discuss a plan to relocate the UK round of the series to Northern Ireland in 2020.
Ending a 19-years association with Wales will be a blow for the Welsh Government and Welsh and British rally fans who have spent millions of pounds promoting and enjoying the four day event since 2000.
It has been a major player in the Welsh Government’s tourism strategy and brought substantial income at a time in autumn after the main tourist season.
The change is part of a radical overhaul of the world series which would see the very fast tarmac Tour of Corsica and German events making way for rounds in Japan and Kenya, which used to host the gruelling Safari event.
A cross-border rally was held in Ireland in 2007 and 2009 and the Circuit of Ireland was a European event between 2014 and 2016. Funding has always been an issue with the Irish events but Welsh Government has pumped millions of pounds into Wales Rally GB over two decades.
This year’s round between 3 and 6 October will be based in Llandudno. It was hosted in Cardiff and South Wales from 2000 to 2012 and then moved to North Wales, including the first UK public road stage of a modern WRC event in 2018 after the law changed to permit closing roads for motor sport.
Traditionally, the UK has hosted international rallies over consecutive nights and days in Wales, Ireland, Scotland and nationally when it visited different cities every few years around the UK.
Today’s motor sport events utilise a central hub with stages radiating out and back each day so teams can rest and service cars, and we have seen the introduction of “power stages” in arenas and streets to boost audiences and make it easy for television coverage.
Hundreds of millions watch a WRC round and it’s a big earner for promoters . In 2017, Elfyn Evans (left in picture) was the first Welsh driver to win his home event with navigator Daniel Barritt, in a Ford Fiesta WRC, and it now looks like he could be the last.