RE: Five things I learned from going to Wales Rally GB

RE: Five things I learned from going to Wales Rally GB

Monday 7th October

Five things I learned from going to Wales Rally GB

A numpty's guide to spectating at a WRC event, written by a rally numpty



My rallying era is soundtracked by Propaganda's Duel and has Tony Mason standing in a dark and drizzly Grizedale, trying to interview drivers in the middle of a raging snowstorm while William Woollard or Steve Rider holds the fort back in the studio. The cars were real cars, drivers were real drivers, rallies were real rallies, modern WRC just isn't the same thing and all that.

Utterly disillusioned by F1, I've recently experienced something of a personal rallying revival, though. I've actually kept up with this season on Red Bull TV and, a few weeks back, I had a trip to M-Sport where I met Elfyn Evans and got a ride on a forest stage in a WRC Fiesta alongside Gus Greensmith. Mind suitably blown, I was totally fired up for Wales Rally GB and determined to see it for real. Turns out I was woefully underprepared for the reality of going to watch a modern WRC event. Here's what I learned.


You'll need to plan ahead

I knew I wanted a proper stage rather than one of the showcase events like the Oulton Park opener. But realised this was going to require some planning. Two things helped. First, the superb downloadable planner on the https://www.walesrallygb.com/ Wales Rally GB website, containing everything from stage maps to parking info and timings. Knowing the lay of the land around Llyn Brenig from various shoots over the years was also very handy, making this an easy choice. I also asked around for further advice. Should I stick to the officially sanctioned viewing 'pens' or go rogue? Were there any 'secret' spots to make the experience truly memorable? The PH view was a brutal reality check for my breezy assumption I could do it as a casual day trip with my six-year-old, most advising I'd need to get there the night before and sleep in the car.

Get up early... really early

Brenig's a couple of hours from mine and the first cars were due on stage just after daybreak. But the more I read about road closures, distance of hikes from parking to stages and all the rest, the earlier my start time got. The realisation I was actually going to have to leave at 4am was the moment rallying got real and my enthusiasm started to ebb. Given we made it to the stage barely five minutes before the first WRC cars I'll say we made it more through luck than design. Could have been worse, though - I could have slept through it all like the bloke in the folding chair a few yards from us. Gutted.


It's a bigger deal than you ever have realised

For most of the drive across North Wales I was kidding myself it was going to be a breeze and all this talk of huge crowds and nightmare parking was over the top. Wrong. With a few miles to the stages still to go a checkpoint and armies of marshals in multiple layers of hi-vis romper suits appeared out of the rain and gloom, similarly clad rally fans determinedly stomping from cars and camper vans lining the verges laden with brollies, flasks and folding chairs. Clearly, we were total amateurs. Maybe next time I'll sleep in the car after all.

Rally folk are a bit feral... but down to earth

I'm not saying rally fans are a bunch of banjo twiddling Deliverance types. But hiking up through a forest with folk spilling out of muddy sleeping bags and into three-day-old waterproofs it all felt a bit... wild. Friendly though, with a real sense of camaraderie and gritty determination to Have A Good Time whatever the challenges. I could sense the 'you weren't even there, man' response to our obvious day-tripper noob status. But everyone was super friendly and willing to share tips on good places to watch. Or bad ones. Having watched the first pass in one of the pens we stomped the stage in search of a new spot, a banking above a high-speed slalom between log piles looking appealing. "It's amazing. But I wouldn't watch from here with my kid, put it that way." said one of the guys already there. Our eventual spot beside a jump felt sufficiently different from the official viewing pen while still observing parental responsibility obligations.


Rally cars are bloody amazing

Foolishly, I'd written off the latest cars as technically impressive but a little sterile. Wrong, wrong, wrong. That ride in the WRC Fiesta gave me rare insight but, at our first viewing spot, the speed of approach, machine-gun like rattle of anti-lag and sheer violence of acceleration out of the corner was simply awesome. And at the second spot you could see the downforce pinning the cars into the ground, wheels squashed into box arches like they were on tarmac suspension before floating over the jump without even a lift. Chatting with Elfyn Evans at the M-Sport event, he accepted the new cars struggle to communicate their potency to casual viewers, though in the metal stun with their sheer speed. He has a point, but anyone who tells you modern rally cars are boring needs to get closer to them. Thankfully, with a little effort, you can - even in a safe spot we were near enough to be peppered by stones, smell the hot brakes, feel the displacement of air as the cars passed and see the drivers working at the wheel.

After the event we were milling around and somehow ended up 20 metres away from where Ott TΓ€nak and Martin Jarveoja crossed the line and jumped on the roof of their Toyota in celebration of the win, before he and all the other cars drove through a car park full of fans en route to the 'proper' finish in Llandudno. Petter Solberg even stopped to chat. Money couldn't buy you proximity like that to F1 cars or drivers before, during or after a race. Against that, an early alarm call, muddy boots and a hike through the woods seem a small price. Do it.






Author
Discussion

Jon_S_Rally

Original Poster:

583 posts

34 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
Good little piece. As I have said many times on this forum, you really need to see these cars in real life to appreciate just how special they are.

So many just sit back and criticise the WRC, going on endlessly about "the good old days", wheeling out endless "it's not been the same since the end of Group B" and all that other cliched rubbish. If you actually venture out and watch them in the metal, you soon realise that they are talking rubbish. The cars are absolute monsters and we are going through one of the most competitive and exciting eras of the sport we've seen in many, many years. It makes F1 look like watching paint dry.

Also, if you don't like the unsociable hours associated with Rally GB, I would recommend an excursion over to Belgium for the Ypres Rally next year. It's all tarmac, the route is nice and compact in the area surrounding Ypres and access to the stage is really simple. They also start at a slightly more sociable time and the place is full of locals who are happy to chat and provide you with sausages and bottles of beer for a couple of Euros. I went for the first time this year and it was the best rally I have ever been to.

swisstoni

8,156 posts

225 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
Dear Sport Administrators,

If you want to get your sport highlighted, sell the rights to the Beeb, not broadcasters watched by 12 people.

Loplop

1,674 posts

131 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
swisstoni said:
Dear Sport Administrators,

If you want to get your sport highlighted, sell the rights to the Beeb, not broadcasters watched by 12 people.
So they can sell them to Murdoch and the viewing figures plummet?

swisstoni

8,156 posts

225 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
Loplop said:
swisstoni said:
Dear Sport Administrators,

If you want to get your sport highlighted, sell the rights to the Beeb, not broadcasters watched by 12 people.
So they can sell them to Murdoch and the viewing figures plummet?
What?

DaveEvs

29 posts

48 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
Glad you enjoyed it Dan.
Next year give me a shout - I’ve got accommodation in Corris a short walk from the best bits of Dyfi...

Loplop

1,674 posts

131 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
swisstoni said:
What?
The Beeb cut a deal with Sky for the broadcast rights to F1 in the UK.

Which is why we have to pay for the entire Sky Sports package even though I personally couldn't give a toss about football, it's highlights only (bar the British GP) on Channel 4 now and we don't get the 'full' F1TV package including live footage in the UK.

charlestdci

13 posts

165 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
Back in the mid-nineties I marshalled on a couple of RAC rallies, as a group of us from my uni motor club helped out. In truth it felt more like we'd signed up for privileged viewing areas in front of the general public. Getting up at 2am was the downside. The considerable upside was driving part of the stage to get to our marshalling point. Thankfully my 2CV didn't embarrass itself going through the water splash. I can still picture the unbelievable speed of Carlos Sainz in a GT4 on a muddy, rutted downhill approach to a corner. Happy days.

andyj007

76 posts

124 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
sad thing is i used to love my rallying, all the way back to 1985, im into motorsport , and didnt even realise this was on... just gets lost on unpopular channels .. such a shame,, went 4 years ago the stages were brilliant, until we went to a designated rally fest at some castle.. utter rubbish, cars forced to go through cones very slowly.. vowed never to waste my money again.. on a hyped up spectator stage.. get out in the forest thats where it happens

sparks_190e

10,778 posts

159 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
I'm intending on going next year, always wanted too. The closest I've seen is the rally section at Goodwood FOS, and the Sunseeker Rally in Wareham Forest, Dorset, but that's not on anymore frown

mstrbkr

7,060 posts

144 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
I completely understand your point about the difference between seeing them on TV vs. real life, though I have not seen WRC "live". When I saw BTCC in the metal for the first time in 2016 I was quite surpised by the verocity of them. TV makes them sound and look quite normal, but they are absolute animals.

mstrbkr

7,060 posts

144 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
Loplop said:
The Beeb cut a deal with Sky for the broadcast rights to F1 in the UK.

Which is why we have to pay for the entire Sky Sports package even though I personally couldn't give a toss about football, it's highlights only (bar the British GP) on Channel 4 now and we don't get the 'full' F1TV package including live footage in the UK.
Did the BBC do that? I think swisstoni's response was because the BBC perhaps had nothing to do with it, and it was Ecclestone and Sky that took it from free to air TV.

I enjoyed the 90 mins of live WRC coverage on Sunday, but found it by pure chance.

yonex

15,270 posts

114 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
I’d like to see a rally sometime. Always thought the drivers were on a different level.

Zad

11,896 posts

182 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
Unfortunately, rallying just had no mainstream media presence now. It was much easier to like the sport when Rally GB really was GB and not just a bit of Wales; English Midlands, North East, Scotland, Lake District, Wales, West Midlands and back to start. You actually stood a chance of being able to go to a venue that wasn't hundreds of miles away, to see cars you could actually buy from the main dealer (albeit modified). That is, if you weren't snowed in at the end of November.

The great god in the Sky has done to rallying what it has done to rugby league, athletics and cricket. Better to go and see a local rally event.

Yeah I know, grumble grumble bah humbug etc.

Anyway, I'll leave you with the aforementioned Propaganda / Jewelled, William Woollard (grumbling that in 1986 they have shortened it and are a bunch of wusses for not having night stages), 6R4s, RS200s, 205s, Mantas etc etc.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UPJfuDxB_s


By the way, it is not Duel but Jewelled, which is the longer remixed version of Duel and Jewel used for Top Gear Rally Report https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kmr0cO56EvM and yes I wrote that in a nasal voice...

cerb4.5lee

12,572 posts

126 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
I used to really enjoy going to Wales to watch the rally back in the early 90's and we always had a great time. I'd love to do it again now for sure.

Dan Trent

1,858 posts

114 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
Zad said:
By the way, it is not Duel but Jewelled, which is the longer remixed version of Duel and Jewel used for Top Gear Rally Report https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kmr0cO56EvM and yes I wrote that in a nasal voice...
I hang my head in shame - I did know that but it slipped my mind! Thank you!

Dan

Max_Torque

14,088 posts

163 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
I stopped going to rallies after they began to look like a procession of identical 3 mass produced cars driving along.

If you want a proper following, something to really get behind, they need to bring back the fun and sportsmanship, rather than just concentrate on speed and money.

For example, i have driven for 4 hours across the UK to watch Andy Burtons Peugeot Cosworth, just the hear how it sounds at max attack. Yeah, the current crop of carbon copy cars sound ok, in bangy rough kind of way, but they are nothing like proper rally cars used to be:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2IK1lACvj0

The fact the car is entirely home made, by a farmer from Herefordshire is just the icing on the cake!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dr7vHp_676U



When the MSA banned these cars (mainly because they were faster than the WRC based cars that cost 4 times more and were driven mostly by rich, but not so talented folk (<< controversial!!)) i gave up going to events, because once you've seen one WRC car, you've seen them all........

philcray

631 posts

149 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
Didn't watch an actual race but I was in Portugal 5 or 6 years ago and saw an advert for the opening event for the WRC to be held in Portimao. I drove there with the family and there was virtually nobody around, after about 20 minute we heard the distinctive rally car sound and wandered around the back of the hotel (the big one on the harbour) where all the cars arrived and parked up on the access road. This included the works teams cars and numerous independents. Most of the cars were open to look in and chat to the drivers, it was a big surprise and probably like the olden days of motor sport.

Back at the hotel lobby it was now getting busier, all the drivers were wandering around and you could get autographs, pictures etc. The official stuff then started a bit later as you see on tv with the cars driving up onto the ramp. After that they roared off and parked up just round the corner, we had a chat with Mads Ostberg and some of the other Scandi drivers as my wife is Swedish....

All in all, a great experience and recommended if you happen to be in Portugal hopefully it is still as laid back!



Our eldest meeting the pit lane girls!


DaveEvs

29 posts

48 months

Monday 7th October
quotequote all
Thanks for the great memories of rallying in the 80s in Wales. As a 7-11 year old (ish), I recall walking the pits in Llandrindod where the crews let us look in cars they had finished working on, while attractive ladies handed out stickers and hats to us kids, and brochures and price lists to fathers. Friends and I battled to see who could collect the most tat!


ilovequo

724 posts

127 months

Tuesday 8th October
quotequote all
swisstoni said:
Dear Sport Administrators,

If you want to get your sport highlighted, sell the rights to the Beeb, not broadcasters watched by 12 people.
The Beeb only seem to air gender neutral yet all-female non contact sports with a 'politically impartial' but highly left wing tendancies at the moment...
Lets keep them as far away from Rallying as possible

generationx

2,406 posts

51 months

Tuesday 8th October
quotequote all