13 - 16 Sep 12
Surface:Gravel with some asphalt sections
Britain’s World Rally Championship counter has been a qualifying round of the series every year since the WRC was established in 1973. This year’s event will mark a move away from its end-of-term slot to a mid-September date, which it last occupied in 2005.
Wales Rally GB’s origins date back to 1932 and, for many years, it was known as the RAC Rally in deference to the organiser, the Royal Automobile Club, before the advent of commercial sponsorship brought about a change of name.
While the event used to roam around England, Scotland and Wales, making it a test of endurance rather than a demonstration of all-out speed, since 2000 the action has been contained in Wales, specifically in the south, prior to the inclusion of stages further north into mid-Wales in 2008.
The 2009 edition expanded even further afield into Wales and took in the famous and ultra-fast Radnor stage, which is less than one hour by road from Birmingham, Britain’s second largest city.
There was also a move towards a mixed surface format in 2010 with some asphalt sections creeping in to the predominantly gravel runs, while the Cardiff Bay special stage ran entirely on asphalt roads close to the main service area in the Welsh capital.
The format of this year’s Wales Rally GB is set to mirror the route trialled for the first time in 2011. Starting in the seaside town of Llandudno in the north of Wales and finishing in the capital Cardiff in the south three days later, last season’s rally incorporated several stages not used for a number of decades.
It event began with two runs over the Great Orme toll road followed by a spectacular ceremonial start in Conwy. Builth Wells, in the centre of the country, housed the permanent service park although crews were required to return to Cardiff for overnight parc ferme and the ceremonial finish.
But it’s the gravel-based forest stages that Wales Rally GB is most famous for. Fast and undulating, the roads are often made slippery by rainfall, ice and even snow although slightly more hospitable conditions are expected this year following the rally’s move to a mid-September date from its traditional November slot.