25 Nov 08
To outline the changes for this year's event WRC.com spoke to Andrew Coe - CEO of the event's organiser and promoter, International Motor Sports.
One week to go now, how are the preparations going?
It's going very well. Everything is on track and we're looking forward to hosting a successful conclusion to this year's WRC.
Compared to 2007 this year's route has changed quite a bit. What have you done and why?
We wanted to try and make the event fresher. We've used the same basic stages now for four years so this year we've introduced, in effect, a whole new leg of the competition by taking the event further north into Mid-Wales and utilising the Hafren and Myherin Forests and the Sweet Lamb complex. These are all iconic names in Welsh rallying but places we haven't been able to include for about nine years. This time, however, we've taken advantage of the relaxed regulations concerning remote servicing. We've set up a service park in Builth Wells at the Royal Welsh showground that allows us to do entire passes of those three areas, Myherin, Hafren and Sweet Lamb, before crews head back to South Wales for two passes through a 2.2km night stage at Walters Arena. We think it's going to be very exciting; some of the most challenging gravel stages in the world during the day, then finishing with a night time spectator stage in the evening. Most of these changes have been made to benefit spectators, and we'll be changing the running order though Walters Arena so that they'll see the top 30 cars tackle it twice inside an hour.
If this extended format likely to remain in the future?
Yes, very much so. It serves lots of purposes for us. The mid-Wales stages are within an hour or so of some of the major population centres in the UK including Manchester and Birmingham. Part of the issue is to excite the participants and drivers so they will enjoy the great sporting challenge we'll provide for them as well as increasing the appeal for the UK populous a little bit further north that we have done previously
What feedback have you had?
So far so good. We've had lots of positive feedback. Many people remember the great atmosphere at Sweet Lamb when there were crowds of up to 10,000 people. We want to reproduce that atmosphere. We have created more spectator areas, merchandising areas and arranged big screens so people there know exactly what's happening in the rally.
How has the Millennium stadium stage changed?
We have redesigned the layout. We don't have enough room within the stadium to do a side-by-side traditional Super Special stage so this time, for its fourth running, we've altered the course to make it more exciting to watch. The stage looks kidney shaped and we believe it will lead to a lot more sideways action as cars slow down slightly less. It's a fresh approach and we hope it will be even better than previous years.