Organisers of this year’s RallyScotland, the penultimate round of the International Rally Championship, have been forced to make changes to the event following significant financial losses incurred during the inaugural event 12 months ago.
Despite headline figures which stated the 2009 rally generated “measurable benefits” of £1.2 million in economic impact and more than £2 million in media coverage for Scotland, the three-day event failed to break-even.
“To be honest, it was a financial nightmare,” a spokesman for the organisers, which includes EventScotland and International Motor Sports (IMS), admitted. “We were haemorrhaging money right through the planning and running of the event.
“Some of the decisions which were made were not the most sensible and as a result it cost us an awful lot of money despite the input of a number of big name agencies from South of the Border, an exercise which is being repeated again this year
“We have though made a significant number of changes for this year, including dramatically reducing the ticket prices for the rally stages, so hopefully we can at least break-even.”
A noticeable lack of sponsorship though still threatens to cripple the event, which will be officially launched near Stirling today.
While Skoda will again supply official cars for organisers, watchmaker TW Steel, which last year was the event’s official timekeeper and had been touted as main sponsor for 2010, has walked away because of the excessive demands laid out by the organisers.
The event on October 15-17, which finishes with a podium ceremony at Stirling Castle, will again enjoy comprehensive coverage on Eurosport, including live screening on Saturday and Sunday of the runs through the dramatic Errochty and Loch Ard forest stages.
But the biggest battle remains getting diehard Scots rally fans, traditionally used to scrambling through the forest stages to watch the action for free, to dig deep into their pockets to pay for the right to watch RallyScotland.
“It’s certainly not what rally fans in Scotland are used to,” Clerk of the Course, Iain Campbell, who will again mastermind the logistics of the Perth and Stirling-based event, explained, “but unfortunately it’s the nature of the beast.”
In a bid to generate more revenue, organisers IMS have reduced ticket prices by 50% for the opening spectator special stages at Scone Palace on the evening of Friday, October 15. And while last year spectators had to pay £20 access to each stage, this year 20 quid will buy a day’s pass.
This year’s rally also switches from Thurs-Sat to a Fri-Sun format, contains more competitive miles — 130 miles, with 57 on the Saturday — than the inaugural event, and also moves its HQ, service area and overnight parc ferme from the congested centre of Stirling to Perth Airport.
One man though definitely looking forward to the event is last year’s winner, Darlington’s Guy Wilks, despite spending today in a hyperbaric chamber in Middlesborough recovering from fractured vertebrae he sustained in a high-speed crash in Sardinia at the weekend.
“It’s certainly not how I expected to be spending today,” Wilks, currently tied equal second in the IRC despite his crash, said.
“Last year’s RallyScotland was my first event in a Skoda Fabia S2000, so winning was a very special moment in my career. The stages in Perthshire and Stirling are fantastic. It’s quickly established itself as a favourite in my rally calendar, and I can’t wait to get back.”