Leading WRC stars turn out for official Wales Rally GB curtain-raiser
Wales Rally GB was full of the feelgood factor on Wednesday 9th October, as stars of the sport, Welsh heroes and high-ranking dignitaries gathered at Llyn Brenig to rev this year’s edition of the iconic event into life.
After a move to north Wales in 2013 revitalised Britain’s closing round of the FIA World Rally Championship, this year’s event – to be held from 13-16 November – is set to further build upon a spectacular success story.
In evidence of its spectator-focused approach, this year’s Wales Rally GB will put fans right at the heart of the high-octane action more than ever before. Enhanced facilities, larger car parks and improved viewing areas will be complemented by free access to the Deeside Service Park, Remote Service area at Newtown, Colwyn Bay Ceremonial Start and Llandudno Ceremonial Finish – surefire hits amongst traditional and non-traditional rally fans.
Throw into the mix the immensely popular RallyFest stages at Chirk Castle and Kinmel Park, some superb blasts through the legendary north Wales forests and live television coverage of the new-for-2014 Brenig Power Stage – and November’s fabulous finale to the fast-and-frenetic WRC really does promise to be an event not-to-be-missed.
Throngs of media gathered at Llyn Brenig Visitor Centre today to hear from Wales Rally GB’s key players – from promoter International Motor Sports (IMS) to the Welsh Government and Conwy County Borough Council. There were even cameo appearances from Wales international hooker and Llanelli Scarlets captain Ken Owens and multiple downhill mountain bike racing world champion Gee Atherton.
“The 2013 edition of Wales Rally GB was a great event by any measure, with a fantastic return to north Wales, 70,000 spectators and £10.8 million going directly back into the Welsh economy – representing a genuine impact for people on the ground,” explained Ben Taylor, Managing Director of Wales Rally GB.
“That marked the beginning of a brand new event for everybody involved, and the Welsh Government and Conwy Council have been instrumental in their support – everybody has opened their arms and said, ‘Welcome to Wales Rally GB’. There is an incredible swell of enthusiasm for this event and a real sense of occasion.
“We will have more than 160 of the world’s finest driving crews taking on one of the finest events on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar. All the stages are in fantastic condition and offer a real challenge to the competitors, and the live television coverage of the Power Stage here at Brenig will paint Wales and its hills, lakes and vistas in a glorious light.
“We have a partnership with the Welsh Government until at least the end of next year and feel there is enormous potential still to be exploited from this event. We have real ambition for the future of Wales Rally GB.”
Those sentiments were shared by David Rosser, Director of Innovation in the Department of Economy, Science and Transport at the Welsh Government – Wales Rally GB’s principal funding partner.
“We are delighted to have the rally back in Wales again,” he affirmed. “As a long-term partner, Wales Rally GB is a very special event for us and we are all committed to maximising the benefits.
“In addition to the direct economic boost that the rally brings, it enables us to really showcase Wales and all that our country has to offer, from its spectacular stages to its equally spectacular backdrop. It’s also a way of engaging differently with the automotive sector, which is enormously important in Wales – the rally brings the whole industry together.”
“I’m very pleased that we have increased our support for Wales Rally GB and have official host county status for a prestigious FIA World Rally Championship event,” echoed Dilwyn Roberts, Leader of Conwy County Borough Council. “It showcases to the whole world what Conwy County has to offer, and we are proud to be a centre of excellence for national and international sporting events.
“Conwy is a stunning backdrop, and we’re very excited to be bringing the Ceremonial Start to Eirias Stadium in Colwyn Bay, which is a superb setting and will be a new experience for rally-goers. A lot of enthusiasm and hard work goes into the organisation of Wales Rally GB, it’s great for the wellbeing of the area and the feelgood factor the rally generates is something we really cannot put a price on.”
The 2014 edition of Wales Rally GB incorporates three days totalling 23 stages and more than 300 competitive kilometres – and three of the drivers who will be tackling that terrain were present in Brenig today, in the shape of M-Sport World Rally Team WRC rookie Elfyn Evans, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team star Kris Meeke and Hyundai Motorsport N ace Hayden Paddon.
“This rally is unique in terms of its character, and it brings something different and fresh to the world championship,” remarked Evans, who was joined at the Media Day by his father Gwyndaf, with both running a series of high-speed passenger rides. “It’s never short of drama, either, which always makes for a fitting finale to the season. It’s a fantastic event to compete on, as it’s full of real drivers’ stages.
“I received tremendous support here last year – it was great to see so many Welsh fans out on the stages waving Welsh flags. If I receive anything like the same level of support this year, it will give us an extra spur and make my WRC debut on the event a truly special one.”
“I’ve really enjoyed my first full season in the WRC, and competing on Wales Rally GB will be the icing on the cake,” added Meeke, whose most recent ‘participation’ on the event was in a Bentley Continental GT for cult BBC television show Top Gear.
“In truth, I don’t have a great deal of experience of Wales Rally GB, having only entered it once over the past eight years, but it’s always been a legendary event. My first-ever rally was actually through Dyfi Forest, so I feel at home on these stages – they are very natural for me and after coming to Brenig today, seeing the new stage and the leaves on the ground and smelling the forests, I can’t wait to be back here again next month!
“I grew up with the excitement of watching Colin McRae and Richard Burns in action at the height of their powers, but for several years now, we haven’t had any British drivers at the very pinnacle of the sport. This is the first time in over a decade that we have two Brits in the top flight, and hopefully Elfyn and I can both be right up there in November fighting for the podium…”
Wales Rally GB is offering FREE admittance to the official Service Park in Deeside, Ceremonial Start in Eirias Stadium in Colwyn Bay, Remote Service in Newtrown and Ceremonial Finish in Llandudno. Advanced tickets for the spectacular Special Stages run against the clock are available via the official website at www.walesrallygb.com or via the ticket hotline on 0844 847 2251.
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