|This weekend`s Wales Rally GB will feature crews representing eight European nations in the leading factory-entered cars, including British co-drivers Phil Mills and Michael Park. But, for the first time since the late Eighties, there will be no British drivers competing for any of the official manufacturer-entered teams, a situation that prompted the governing body to consider this crucial issue at the start of the year.
The MSA is in discussion with some of the greatest names in Britain`s illustrious rallying heritage to form an independent Driver Selection Panel. This panel will examine the credentials of Britain`s aspiring young rally drivers already competing at both national and international level and will identify to the MSA those who are most likely to make an impact at the pinnacle of the sport – the FIA World Rally Championship.
It is envisaged that the selected drivers could form the core of an MSA British International Rally Team and would receive a significant package designed to underline their potential, increase their exposure and help them make it to the top of the WRC.
In addition to benefiting from the recognition of their abilities by their national governing body together with the attendant media opportunities, a bursary scheme could be provided to selected competitors.
"Unlike many other ASNs who receive financial support from their governments, the MSA is never going to have the money to fund drivers in the way that some other countries are able to do," explains Colin Hilton, MSA Chief Executive.
"We cannot take the money we receive from licence holders and give it to individuals, but we can help them in a number of other ways. It is absolutely in the best interests of motor sport in this country that we are represented at the very highest level and I am confident that some of the highest profile figures in UK rallying will agree to work with us to shape this vital project."
It is anticipated that the constitution of the panel and the details of the selection process will be announced within a few weeks, with a view to the first beneficiaries being nominated in time for the 2005 season.
Britain`s round of the FIA World Rally Championship – Wales Rally GB – takes place in Cardiff this weekend, 16-19 September 2004.