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Page last updated at 17:19 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 18:19 UK

Rally GB diary

Gareth Rhys Jones
By Gareth Rhys Owen
BBC Sport Wales at the GB Rally

Mikko Hirvonen
Mikko Hirvonen is one point ahead going into the final event

Hosting the final leg of any multi-stage world championship event is always risky.

With so many titles decided weeks, if not months in advance, the organisers often have to sell the importance of the team/constructor championship to maintain the hype.

Just ask Abu Dhabi, who would have been cursing Jenson Button for wrapping up the Formula 1 title on the penultimate weekend in Brazil.

There are no such worries for the Rally GB team this year. With only a point separating the Ford Focus of championship leader Mikko Hirvonen and five-times world champion Sebastian Loeb in the Citroen C4, it promises to be an exciting climax.

It is therefore a shame that much of the attention should be focused on the future of the event.

The Welsh Assembly's Government's decision to withdraw funding forced the Motorsport Association to provide emergency funding to save this year's race.

And without financial assistance the rally could have to move.

A dreamy look appears on the face of a Finnish colleague as I ask him about the prospect of the rally being held elsewhere in Britain.

A return to the Kielder Forest would be his ideal scenario as I am treated to a nostalgic account of the Colin McRae-Juha Kankkunen tussles of old.

However, his suggestion that the name should revert back to "RAC Rally" suggests his understanding of the cut-throat world of sponsorship is not quite up to scratch.


Rally GB chief Executive Andrew Coe is still hopeful the rally's home will remain in Wales although he concedes a move elsewhere may be inevitable.

One who would be quite happy to see relocation is leading British driver Matthew Wilson, who is also a big fan of Kielder.

Ex-champion Petter Solberg offered a few minor quibbles concerning the distances between locations, but the general consensus amongst drivers and officials is that Wales has served the rally well.

One might have expected Sebastian Loeb to encourage a move away from Wales. The Frenchman may be chasing an unprecedented sixth consecutive world title but last year's victory was his first in Wales.

Both he and Hirvonen looked half asleep at the pre-race press conference, but both suggested their hearts were racing.

Loeb remained calm and collected when discussing his failed attempt at competing in next week's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. A possible drive for Torro Rosso has been scuppered with a failure to gain a super-licence by the FIA, world motor racing's governing body.

So there will be no distractions for the defending world champion. The maths is simple: A sixth world championship is his as long as he finishes in the points ahead of Hirvonen.

Anything less will hand the Finn his first world title. Strap yourselves in. It is going to be fun.

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see also
British rally Welsh venue doubt
22 Oct 09 |  Rallying
Rally threat after 2m grant axed
15 Apr 09 |  Wales
Rally star's 50,000 car stolen
17 Feb 09 |  Mid Wales
Rally star's hope after car taken
29 Aug 08 |  Mid Wales
Loeb triumphs in Wales Rally GB
07 Dec 08 |  Rallying

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