THE Mid Wales Stages rally event will not run in 2017, after uncertainty around costs forced event organisers to pull the plug on the popular event this week.
The event, which takes place over the world famous WRC stages of the Hafren, Myherin and Sweet Lamb forests was originally billed as the opening round of the MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship, but will now be replaced on the MSA calendar by the Red Dragon Stages at the Walters Arena complex and nearby Natural Resources Wales forestry estate near Port Talbot.
The row centres on an ongoing dispute over the fees to rally in Welsh government-run forests, imposed by forest managers Natural Resources Wales.
An independent campaign named Rally4Wales reached a compromise deal with Natural Resource Wales to take over repair of the roads late in 2016, but a misunderstanding over costs means that rally organisers Newtown & District Automobile Club would have to foot a 20 per cent VAT bill for any repairs carried out, posing too much of a potential risk for the event to continue.
“Following a meeting of Newtown & District Automobile Club Ltd’s committee, it was decided that, due to the current financial uncertainties of running a forest stage event, the difficult decision to cancel the Grooms Garage Mid-Wales Stages 2017 had to be made,” said a spokesman for Newtown and District Automobile Club.
“We hope the early announcement would ensure competitors, teams, championships and local businesses can plan accordingly to fill the gap left by the events departure from the calendar.”
Welshpool based driver James Watkins expressed his disappointment that the stages had been cancelled, but said the high cost of entry may have put some competitors off.
“It’s a disappointing start to the year, particularly for us as it was going to be our first event, but there’s nothing you can do really. It’s an expensive one to do for us, but they’re classic stages and the event is unique in Mid Wales of course.”
“It’s a big event in the area and all sorts of trade for hotels and cafes and so on will be affected.”
MSA Championship co-ordinator Dave Evison commented: “We are very sorry to lose the Mid Wales Stages especially given all the hard work put in by the organising team, we hope the event will return in 2018 so contenders can enjoy the World Class stages again. We believe the Red Dragon Stages are a worthy replacement and it will give our competitors an opportunity to tackle some great South Wales stages.”