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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 September, 2004, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK
Hunt protesters delay rally cars
rally car
The Welsh stage of the event ends on Sunday
Wales' leading rallying event was delayed by pro-hunt protesters blocking a road in mid Wales.

The group of demonstrators formed a human shield to prevent cars passing through the village of Llanfinangle Nant Bran on Saturday.

Wales Rally GB competitors have to travel through the village between stages of the race.

The six protesters delayed the first 12 cars by almost half an hour before allowing the event to continue.

No arrests were made following the incident.

A small protest was also staged at the ITV Wales studios at Culverhouse Cross, Cardiff, where Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael was due to be interviewed.

Mr Michael - the MP for Cardiff South and Penarth - was interviewed at a different location and the 30 or so protesters dispersed.

The minister was at the centre of a protest in the House of Commons earlier this week, and has pulled out of a rural engagement in England amid fears that his presence might provoke a similar scenes.

Supporters of hunting have launched a series of protests over the past few days as a reaction to the decision of MPs to vote for a ban on hunting with dogs.

The Wales Rally GB is a high-profile event which attracts many spectators over its various stages.

Alun Michael
The minister has been targetted by hunters
It has been growing in popularity in recent years, and helps tourism in Wales as rally fans spend money in local hotels, guest houses, and restaurants.

This year, rally organisers have announced their delight that fewer drivers have been breaking the speed limit on public roads between stages.

The Mid and South Wales Safety Camera Partnership said it was pleased with the response from fans and competitors so far.

It has deployed 18 mobile camera vans and four camera motorbikes in the annual crackdown during the event.

Enforcement action was taken following 2,316 recorded speeding offences two years ago during the contest.

Halfway through the rally, a safety camera partnership spokeswoman said: "It's early days but we're pleased with what we've seen so far.

People seem to be listening to our appeals to drive carefully
The Mid and South Wales Safety Camera Partnership

"Speeds and offences appear to be down. We're hoping that this will continue throughout the rest of the weekend.

"People seem to be listening to our appeals to drive carefully."

She added that during a four-hour period along the M4 on Friday, only nine people were caught speeding -- and those drivers may have had nothing to do with the rally.

The round of the World Rally Championship finishes in Cardiff on Sunday night.

The rally, which began on Thursday night, visits south, west and mid Wales.

There was a 56% drop in recorded speeding between stages during last year's rally compared with 2002.

And the Mid and South Wales Safety Camera Partnership has been working with rally organisers to make sure percentages are cut further this year.

In 2002, 17 rally drivers were fined or banned for offences after a high-profile clampdown.

Speed camera motorcycle
Motorcycles speed cameras are being used during the rally

John Rowling, manager of the Safety Camera Partnership, said: "We were extremely pleased with the results of last year's rally.

"The numbers caught speeding dropped dramatically and there were no serious accidents or any of the excessive speeds that we've witnessed in previous years.

"Ideally, I'd like to see no-one caught during the event but this can only happen if all competitors, spectators and other motorists comply with speed limits."

The rally survived a threat to its future in March.

There were fears that the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) was going to pull the event out of Wales after a police crackdown on competitors speeding between stages.

But the FIA said this year's rally in September would have full world championship status after discussions in Geneva, Switzerland.


SEE ALSO:
Minister defends march decision
18 Sep 04  |  Politics
Go-ahead for Wales Rally GB
24 Mar 04  |  Wales
Rally GB faces safety inquiry
12 Dec 03  |  World Rally
Rally speeding offences halved
15 Nov 03  |  Wales
'No threat' to rally's future
13 Nov 03  |  Wales


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