POOLE’S annual motorsport event is in danger of being axed – with the potential loss of millions of pounds to the town’s economy – in a move that organisers say is “totally irrational”.
Rallye Dorset – formerly known as Rallye Sunseeker – draws thousands of fans, but could now fall victim to a decision to take the British Rally Championship, of which it is part, in-house.
The decision by The Motor Sports Association will see the BRC run by International Motor Sports from 2016, with the championship taking a sabbatical in 2015.
Before the relaunch, IMS will decide which events will make up the championship.
But the Southern Car Club, which runs the Dorset event, due to take place in October, said in a statement that the decision “beggars belief” and was “totally irrational”.
The club said it had “far-reaching implications” and Rallye Dorset was “on the verge of signing” a sponsor as part of its rebrand, but that was in jeopardy.
It added: “We believe this move may have sounded the death knell of arguably one of the best organised, promoted and funded events in the UK – not just in the future, but for this year as well. No new sponsor means no budget, which may well mean no Rallye Dorset 2014.”
Bruce Grant-Braham, chairman of the Poole Tourism Partnership, told the Daily Echo: “Hosting an international event of this size and scale outside the main visitor season is a crucial part of Poole’s events programme.
“Not only does it raise the whole area’s profile, as a world class event it brings £1.2million into the local economy and for its future to be in jeopardy is a real concern, for those directly involved and the wider community.
“It has been a huge success in the past, with the ceremonial start and prize giving on Poole Quay giving spectators the chance to get up close to the drivers and cars at the climax of the season.
“We will continue to work with Rallye Dorset organisers and hope that a positive agreement with the MSA can be reached in order to secure the event for 2014 and in the future.”
• New championship in 2016
RALLYE Dorset event director and vice president of the Southern Car Club, Rick Smith, said he had seen the MSA do “much good” for the sport.
But he added: “However, I am baffled as to how this decision could possibly have been reached, without any consultation with those in charge of current BRC events – my senior officials and the club have been treated shabbily by those supposed to work to our benefit.”
Ben Taylor, MD of IMS, said: “Taking a year off will enable us to have a clean sheet of paper to work with.
“That provides the perfect opportunity to take stock, to canvass opinion more widely, to confirm what we believe the BRC should be and to put the plans in place that mean we are ready with a brand new championship in 2016.”