|During the past 12 months nearly 3,000 rally marshals received basic training and were signed up to a new National Rally Register. Specially prepared spectator enclosures served by new access routes aimed at providing the huge crowds with spectacular yet safe viewing areas were introduced. It was the organiser`s aim not only to address the FIA ruling on spectator safety but to set a new benchmark by which other international rallies will be judged.
During the four-day event staged in the forests of South Wales, the new systems were praised by rallying`s two most influential figures - Max Mosley, President of the FIA (the governing body of world motor sport) and David Richards, Chairman of ISC (the commercial rights holder of the FIA World Rally Championship) - as well as by many of the world`s top drivers.
"We have had a very positive response to our initiatives from just about everyone involved," confirms Colin Hilton, Chief Executive of the Motor Sports Association, the national governing body of motor sport in the UK. "I`m delighted to have read the encouraging remarks from both Max Mosley and David Richards as well as from the competitors and fans. However we are not going to become complacent and there are some areas for improvement, not least in ticketing where we appear to have been let down by our supplier.
"Moreover, we are already working with our new partners in Wales to further improve spectator viewing and safety in future years as well as looking at ways to ensure trackside media aren`t exposed to unnecessary risks. We have already achieved a tremendous amount but we must continue to set new standards if we are to safeguard the rally`s long-term future as an integral part of the World Rally Championship," says Hilton.
In the run up to last week`s Network Q Rally of Great Britain, Network Q Clerk of the Course Fred Gallagher had warned that he wouldn`t hesitate to abandon any of the timed special stages should safety be comprised. Following a report from FIA Safety Delegate, Friday`s second run through the Brechfa Forest had to be cancelled.
"We probably would have run the stage 12 months ago," admitted Gallagher. "But we have set ourselves new standards and we will not compromise safety when there may be the slightest doubt. That cancellation seemed to get the message across and thereafter the fans` behaviour was quite remarkable, a fact that I know has been noted by the FIA."
As well as paying tribute to the spectators, Gallagher also praised the new management structure that he says has improved on all aspects of the organisation as well as the Medical Rescue Team, which had to respond to some notably big accidents during the event.
"At one time there were five major incidents happening almost simultaneously during the tenth special stage on Epynt. It was a serious test of our capabilities but at no point was anybody`s safety threatened, moreover the Medical Rescue Team coped admirably with all five accidents," confirmed Gallagher.
The revised procedures were widely welcomed by the competitors, too. "There was a big improvement in the situation on the stages this year," verified former World Champion Colin McRae. "Personally I saw no problems at all and when there was perhaps a potential for difficulties, the organisers took a correct decision by cancelling a stage."
Britain`s round of the FIA World Rally Championship will be sponsored by Wales for the next four years following an exciting new partnership with the Welsh Development Agency and other local interests that will see the famous event renamed Wales Rally GB as from 2003.
Photographs: Copyright-free, high resolution versions of the two attached images from Walter`s Arena and Epynt accident scene are available on request.
For more information: Deborah Tee or Tim Bampton at MPA Media.
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