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Sunday, 17 November, 2002, 11:36 GMT
Tourism hopes pinned on rally bid
Rally car and crowd
Rally fans generate valuable income when they visit
Sports fans and tourism officials in Wales are waiting for news of the future of the UK's most prestigious rallying event.

An announcement is expected on Sunday which will reveal whether or not Wales will continue to play a major part in hosting the Rally of Great Britain - the final stage of the World Rally Championship.

Colin McRae's car
Fans turned out to see top drivers like Colin McRae

Economic experts estimate that millions of pounds worth of income has been generated during the past three years of hosting the event.

And it is hoped that if it can be retained for a further few years, the economy could benefit by as much as 50m.

This year's finale marks the end of a 10-year sponsorship by Network Q, and so the end of the arrangement which meant the final stage was held at locations across Wales.

Agencies like the Wales Tourist Board and the Welsh Development Agency are known to be keen to retain the event and the spin-off effects which, as well as boosting income for businesses, include projecting the image of Wales to the world.

The WDA and the Welsh Assembly Government have been negotiating for several months in a bid to strike a deal with rally organisers.


Their success in impressing the golfing authorities sufficiently to attract the Ryder Cup has given them extra reason to be hopeful.

Despite the general optimism for the future, this year's Network Q Rally of Great Britain has been hit by some setbacks.

Many fans were left disappointed after the cancellation of one stage in west Wales.

The second running of the Brechfa forest stage in Carmarthenshire on Friday was called off because of concerns about crowd safety.

map showing Brechfa Forest
Safety was tightened after problems at Brechfa

Last year, the world governing body for rallying - the Federation International de l'Automobile (FIA) - ordered a report into the safety of the event after an incident in Brechfa when 13 spectators were injured after being hit by Carlos Sainz's car.

This year, the Motor Sport Association (MSA), which runs the rally, issued a warning before the event that stages would be cancelled if too many spectators lined the roads in the Welsh forests.

Organisers had introduced new safety measures including the appointment of a dedicated spectator safety officer.

Commercial Manager Tim Foster said: "Regrettably the stage was cancelled but ticket holders would already have seen all the cars during the first Brechfa stage.

"Tickets would also allow them to see other stages during the event.

"But anyone with any concerns can write to us and we will respond to everyone."

Rally followers were urged to watch their speeds when driving between stages on the event.

During a four-hour period on Friday on the M4 motorway between Pyle and Margam, 182 motorists were recorded exceeding the speed limit.

Of these, 73 were driving above 90mph and two motorists were recorded driving at 135mph.

More from south west Wales

More from south east Wales
See also:

16 Nov 02 | World Rally
26 Jan 02 | Wales
27 Nov 01 | Wales
26 Nov 01 | Wales
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