by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
GP Week : Issue 161
and children on a Saturday evening, to come and see world rally action. For four years we had a special stage in the Cardiff Millennium Stadium. This was very successful for the event in helping to build new audiences, families, a different kind of rally audience. When the calendar was changed the Stadium was not available. Knowing the calendar date well in advance is very important to an organiser. At this time we have only been told that we will be in the 2013 list of events, but not on what date. In the 1990s and earlier, Rally GB was one of the most successful and popular events in the world championship, largely because of the Sunday spectator stages. When you had to change your format, the Sunday special stages couldn't be run in the same way. The end of the Sunday superspecials must have been fundamental. It changed things dramatically. The Sunday stages on the RAC Rally were legendary. There were regularly up to 100,000 spectators on the stately home Sunday spectator stages. The stages were covered live on BBC TV, which made the rally a very high profile sporting event. The format of WRC events has changed and nowadays the shorter Sunday route means that Sunday is no longer a major spectator opportunity. But that is the consequence of having to adapt to the standardised format and to fall in line with the global television needs, which the event needs for our sponsorship. The challenge for the FIA is how the sport can come up with a format that works equally well for Rally GB and the other rally organisers. The 10 years-old idea of having unified format for WRC events is probably wrong and needs revisiting. The end of the Sunday ‘Stately Homes’ stages must have created a lot of changes commercially? Yes. Lots of issues all wrapped in to one question there. Our world has changed in many ways since 2000. We had also to look very carefully at our sport as a result of increasing Health & Safety issues. The WRC format change had a massive effect on the way we organise the whole event in terms of logistics, of how many people we put in to run the stages, the way we design the route. Commercially we've been further adversely affected in recent years by not having a British driver pre-eminent in the world championship. Also, the TV situation in the UK has been difficult. The host broadcaster has moved around quite a lot and I don't think the current situation is satisfactory. We are working with the FIA and its partner the EBU to do what we can. We in Britain are at a low in terms of media coverage of the WRC but I hope we can start to rebuild it now. There are lots of issues all tied up there. Rally GB is still one of the iconic events, one of the pinnacles of the WRC and the UK is a major car market. To what extent has the end of North One Sport, the Global Promoter until the beginning of this year, changed things from your position? It is currently a very confusing time for everyone involved in WRC. We need to move quickly to have a new platform for the teams, the manufacturers, everyone involved in the commercial side of this business to build on. We need to plan for three possibly even five years. When you have constructed a plan, then you can start to invest, you can build broadcasting partnerships, host partnerships, commercial sponsorship partnerships. At the moment that is very difficult, very challenging. Looking back at the North One Sport era, do you think that NOS led the sport in the wrong direction? I think some of the things they did were positive but the unified format concept has been negative for the sport, particularly so far as the Rally GB is concerned. If you are like us in a very mature rally market with a formula that works well and then you have changes imposed on you, you are going to upset people and to alienate a traditional fan base. When you are introducing ideas to new markets, countries who haven't got a rally tradition, then that is fine. For us and I suspect some other rally organisers, its been a tough sell. Finding successful event formats that bring plenty of people to watch and see the sport is successful is the right way. It is certainly the right way for us. People involved in rallying seem to be pulling in all directions. Is this a sign of chaos? The governing authorities have a tough job. I don't think anyone would covet the current jobs of the FIA or Jarmo Mahonen. We've had 10 years of gradual decline in the sport. To rebuild from that position is immensely difficult. Inevitably a downward spiral makes people lose confidence, broadcasters lose confidence, and no matter how hard we all try its now an uphill struggle. We can't afford to make any more mistakes; we can't afford to get this wrong again. Is the current low level of interest in the sport due to mistakes having been made? That is very difficult to say. I would say there are a lot of issues, a complete storm of issues in the sport. The world recession and problems in the car manufacturing world has not helped. Looking specifically from a UK perspective, we have had a lack of good quality TV rally coverage for a number of years. We need a ‘root and branch’ review of the sport. We need to understand if the sport is as relevant to people, to the public, to the motor sport fans, as it used to be. Once you've had that kind of analysis on the sport then we need to build it from the bottom up. That means having good, sustainable, strong events that are marketed in their particular countries with the help of the FIA. Finally Wales Rally GB comes this year in September (13-16, round 10/13) and not in the usual November. I’m looking for ward to it very much. We've designed a route which is a good combination of lots of things. Some fantastic rally stages this year, with really iconic spectator locations –Walter's Arena is back as is Sweet Lamb, which as you know can hold many thousands of people. We've got the new Celtic Manor stage which will be very different but could be quite spectacular, and we are celebrating the 80th anniversary of Rally GB this year. We can trace our roots back to 1932 in Torquay, and I suppose my job is to make sure we're still here in 80 years’ time. And it is also the 40th time we've been in the world championship framework. We're putting together a collection of historic rally cars from over the years, even going back to 1932 to lure people up to Llandudno! The whole point is to make a good start to an event where we will see some of the current drivers fight it out on some of the world's best rally stages. We have been indebted to the Welsh government over the last 13 years, in which Wales has been the host country, for giving us the chance to keep the traditions alive. RALLY >>> INTERVIEW 46 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: