THE Wales Rally GB must not be lost to the rest of Britain.

Howard and James Watkins of Welshpool based Rally Marketing have condemned the World Rally Championship (WRC) mooting taking the popular event out of Wales in 2020 in favour of Northern Ireland.

Even more worryingly the WRC Promoter's have championed moving the event around Britain.

Such a move would represent a hammer blow to Welsh rallying and sports tourism.

Next year Japan and Kenya will replace Corsica and Germany on the WRC calendar and Wales could be next.

WRC Promoter's Oliver Ciesla said: "Britain is one of the big markets where we would definitely like to be with the WRC. There's a huge fanbase and lots of tradition.

"But we are running this event not in the heart of the country where the fans are.

"We have been pushing for change and we are hopeful this can be achieved in the next year already."

Ciesla insisted Wales could not be considered as annual hosts of the British rally.

"If you look in the long-term perspective, I do not see a long-term calendar where we continue to go to Wales again and again. Northern Ireland is of interest. I don't want to say this is necessarily a long-term plan, but to go for a while or once could be an interesting variation for Rally GB.

"Maybe a model inside the UK moving from one location to another. It's an idea that's been circulated recently and it is very appealing to us."

Worryingly talks to move the 2020 event to Northern Ireland have already begun.

Rally GB clerk of the course Iain Campbell said: "Motorsport UK has been working with the Welsh Assembly, the WRC Promoter and the devolved governments of Northern Ireland and Scotland about securing the long-term future for the WRC in the United Kingdom for some time now,

"The whole of the county offers the opportunity of providing a superb backdrop to the best rallying action in the world - through the special stages, the unique heritage and the passionate rally fans no matter where it is based."

Such sentiments were not shared by father and son Howard and James Watkins of Welshpool who run Rally Marketing.

James said: "It has been part of Wales for so long and since it switched to North Wales it has gone from strength to strength.

"It is popular with crews, popular with fans and uses the best forest stages in the world. It makes me angry to think this could all be lost."

Father Howard said: "Natural Resources Wales (NRW) have invested time and resources into making the Wales Rally GB the best event in the world and the rest of Britain simply does not compare."

Watkins also warned of the massive financial implications of taking the event from Wales.

"Last week the Plains Rally switched its start from Welshpool to Oswestry and Welshpool missed out on trade," said Watkins. "It would be devastating to the Mid Wales economy to lose the Wales Rally GB."