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History of the Rally of Great Britain


1932 First RAC Rally. Torquay finishing point. 341 starters. Class winner: Col A H Loughborough (Lanchester).

1934 – 351 finishers!

1939 Brighton finishing point. 200 starters, 192 finishers. As in all seven previous rallies, no outright winner declared.

World War II

1951 RAC Rally resumes. Bournemouth finishing point. No outright winner declared. Best performance: Ian Appleyard (Jaguar XK120)

1953 Hastings finishing point. Outright winner declared for the first time: Ian Appleyard/Mrs P Appleyard (Jaguar XK120)

1954 Increased emphasis on navigation with night work in Wales and Derbyshire. ‘Only’164 of 229 starters reach finish in Blackpool.

1955 Bad weather brings chaos and damages already poor reputation of rally as mere navigational treasure hunt compared to increasing status of rallies in Europe.

1957 Rally cancelled due to Suez Crisis and petrol rationing.

1958 More indignation as only seven of 130 finishers at Hastings complete route without penalty due to weather and complex navigation tests in Wales.

1959 Jack Kemsley takes charge. Date shifted to November. Accent on driving tests reduced. Tough route to Scottish Highlands, Wales. Finish London. 16 Foreign crews enter. Snow in Scotland causes trouble. Protest at finish!

1960 Kemsley introduces first Special Stage: Monument Hill (2 miles) in Scotland, plus two others, in the 2,064 mile route. Tulip road book introduced.

1961 200 miles of 2,000 miles route held on Forestry Commission land. Introduction of names such as Kielder, Dyfi and Radnor. No longer ‘Rally of the Tests’ but ‘Rally of the Forests’.

1962 38 Special Stages. Hat trick for Eric Carlsson (Saab).

1965 57 Special Stages (400 miles). Practising and note-taking banned. Positions calculated on elapsed time and no longer on points.

1966 Forestry Commission ask for ‘compensation’. Support from Lombard. GP drivers Graham Hill (Mini Cooper S) and Jim Clark (Lotus Cortina) take part.

1967 Event wins sponsorship from ‘The Sun’ and interest of ATV with eight Outside Broadcast units but cancelled due to Foot and Mouth.

1968 115 starters: 85 Special Stages.

1970 2,300 miles. First leg: 48 hours (London-North East-Scotland-Lake District-Blackpool). Second leg: 36 hours. (Blackpool-Wales-West Country-London). GPO telephone recorded reports introduced.

1971 First ‘showcase’ stage for paying public at Harewood House. Snow brings total chaos in Scotland. Exposes woeful lack of communications.

1972 Jim Porter becomes Deputy Clerk of Course. Streamlines organisation. Introduces figure of 8 route. 1800 miles. 72 Special Stages, sponsored by Unipart. Servicing forbidden near Special Stages. Event ‘huge success’. Won by Roger Clark.

1974 Becomes Lombard RAC Rally.

1975 Timo Makinen/Henry Liddon score hat trick.

1976 Bath Rally HQ. Two 36-hour legs, 1900 miles, 75 Special Stages (370 miles). 200 starters. Roger Clark wins.

1977 Sunday start with spectator stages. Starts from Wembley. Moves to York. 68 Special Stages (460 miles). Dedicated on-site computer used for results.

1979 Chester start and finish. Two 36-hour loops, starting with spectator stages then straight into forests. Event reduced by one day. 1700 miles.

1980 Bath start-finish. Overnight halt Windermere.

1981 Phil Short assists Jim Porter.

1982 Fourth win for Hannu Mikkola.

1983 Saturday start from Bath. Complaints about 42 stage miles over 11 stages. Stig Blomqvist (Audi) wins by 10 minutes.

1985 Outrage among works teams over Dave Whittock’s route (still without pace notes). Rally starts straight into Special Stage at Wollaton Park, Nottingham. 2205 miles, 63 Special Stages (549 miles).

1986 Bath start/finish. Night halts Harrogate, Edinburgh, Liverpool.

1987 Pace notes on Sunday stages. FIA limitations on hours and mileage. 1625 miles. 48 Special Stages (319 miles). Four days – with very early starts.

1988 Impressive 5th place from Armin Schwarz on his debut with Audi 200 Quattro. Most exciting WRC rally of the season; three different leaders even on the final day.

1989 SS1 began on Start podium in Nottingham’s Wollaton Park. 55 stages, 374 competitive miles. 44 year old Airikkala, seeded No 19 wins. 187 starters; 84 finish.

1990 Colin McRae (Sierra 4×4) 6th and best British driver. Strongest WRC entry since 1979 Monte Carlo. 1st victory for Sainz. Gwyndaf Evans (Ford) wins Group N.

1991 Harrogate Start/Finish. Chester overnight halts. 37 stages; 348 competitive miles. Kankkunen’s average speed 60.30mph.

1992 Lombard’s farewell £100,000 prize for a British winner goes unclaimed. Alister McRae wins Group N in Shell Scholarship Sierra. Huge spectator turnout in Scottish Borders caused Stage 24 to be cancelled.

1993 Network Q welcomed as title sponsor. Birmingham Start/Finish. Over-night halts in Lancaster and Gateshead. Heavy snow and hard ice in Scottish Borders. Kankkunen achieves 20th WRC victory.

1994 50th running of the event. Colin McRae becomes first British winner for 18 years (since Roger Clark in 1976). Winning margin; 3 minutes; 23 seconds. Chester Start/Finish. Harrogate overnight.

1995 Fastest-ever rally; McRae’s average speed 61.58mph (98.53kph). McRae (27) becomes youngest World Rally Champion. Subaru 1-2-3 for second year and win their first WRC manufacturers title.

1996 WRC 2 litre qualifier only. Ice and snow cover many stages. Schwarz wins for Toyota. 50 year old Blomqvist third in 2WD, 1600cc Škoda Felicia – 25 years after he first won the event in a Saab. SEAT win WRC F2 title.

1997 Cheltenham & Racecourse new rally hosts. For the first time all forest stages are in Wales. Silverstone Rallysprint circuit featured for the first time. Third win for Colin McRae.

1998 Name change; no longer RAC Rally but Rally of Great Britain. First day all mixed surface stages. Five stages at Silverstone. 100th rally for Vatanen. 1st win for Burns. Oil patch and concrete block combine to end Makinen’s rally. Sainz retires on last stage.

1999 Last year in Cheltenham. Shortest WRC event in terms of time between recce and prize giving (7 days). Different service parks for Manufactures and privateers. Last WRC appearance for Toyota Team Europe. End of World 2 litre Series.

2000 Cardiff new HQ. All 17 Stages in Wales (15 Forestry Commission and two visits to the purpose-built Thyssen Rallysprint in Cardiff Bay). Introduction of spectator tickets for all Stages. Entry reduced to 150 cars. Burns completes a hat-trick of victories and
sets new record for winners average speed; 64.02mph. (102.44kph).

2001 Richard Burns becomes first Englishman to win the World Rally Championship. Rally format based around one service area on Welsh Development Agency (WDA) site at Felindre, near Swansea. Entry further reduced to 120 cars. First full scale trial of ISC
vehicle Tracking system.

2002 Unseasonably warm and sunny. Walters Arena, a kilometre of new road in Rheola – featuring a watersplash and jump – is created especially for spectators. Deceptive corner on Epynt military road claims Grönholm, Paasonen and Kuchar. First World Championship win for Petter Solberg and – appropriately – his Welsh codriver Phil Mills. 10th and final year of title sponsorship by Network Q. Daniel Sola (Citroën Saxo) wins inaugural Junior World Rally Championship.

2003 Welsh Assembly Government is new title sponsor. Four drivers in contention for the World Championship; Burns, Loeb, Sainz and Solberg. Burns forced out by illness and replaced by Freddy Loix. Solberg achieves back-to-back victory and secures World Championship. Carlsson wins JWRC but Brice Tirabassi is champion – despite retiring. Makinen announces retirement. Last WRC event for the “classic” Mini. Fastest ever Rally GB; winner’s average speed 108.19kph.

2004 Change of date to September does not improve weather conditions, still wet and muddy. Close battle between Loeb and P. Solberg only decided on last forest stage in Solberg’s favour.

2005 Close competition in the stages overshadowed on final morning by death of codriver Michael Park. Loeb, voluntarily incurred time penalty (to defer finalising Drivers World Championship) handing a fourth consecutive victory to Petter Solberg. Rally HQ
moved to Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, which hosted the first indoor Special Stage.

2006 The 62nd running of the rally and all 17 Special Stages completed without disruption or serious accidents. The final round of the Tesco 99 Octane British Rally Championship, Mitsubishi Evolution Challenge and the Fiesta Sporting Trophy International. Finland’s Marcus Grönholm gives BP-Ford their first Rally of Great Britain victory for 27 years, winning the FIA Manufacturers Championship.

2007 The 75th Anniversary event turned out to be one of the wettest on record. Despite this the 3000-strong volunteer Officials saw to it that every one of the 17 timed Special Stages ran on schedule and the 108 starters had no major timing queries. A hard-earned victory went to Mikko Hirvonen, a fourth World Championship to Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena and the Tesco 99 Octane British Championship to Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh.

2008 Event route takes in stages in Sweet Lamb, Myherin and Hafren on Friday but harsh wintry conditions mean these stages are cancelled or shortened. Loeb and Elena take victory and make history as the first crew to win 11 WRC events in a single season. Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen finish eighth in their Ford Focus RS WRC with their single point establishing them as the first to score points on every round of the WRC in a year. Guy Wilks, and Phil Pugh finish 14th and retained their British Championship title. Seventeen year old Tom Cave starts the event with “P” plates on his 1600cc Fiesta after passing his driving test just days before the rally start. Of the 78 starters – representing 28 countries – 47 were classified at the Cardiff finish.

2009 Loeb and Hirvonen seperated by a single point in the Drivers Championship going into the event. Despite mechanical problems for both cars, Loeb claims victory to record a sixth successive championship. Service Park and Rally HQ moved to Cardiff Bay. Rain and gales throughout the 3 days of the event. 62 competitors from 28 countries start the rally with an impressive 50 classified as finishers.

2010 The WRC Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles had already been decided in France in favour of Sébastien Loeb and Citroen Total WRT. So all eyes were on who could take the runner-up spot in the Drivers’ Championship. There was a three-way fight between Sébastien Ogier (Citroen Junior), Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford WRT) and Petter Solberg (Citroen privateer). Latvala went into an early lead until a puncture. Gear-shift problems thwarted Solberg’s bid for victory and Ogier slid off the road and into retirement in Radnor Forest. Petter took the fight to both Citroen and Ford and was eventually rewarded with a hard-fought second place in Wales. A tactical ploy by Mikko Hirvonen allowed Jari-Matti, his Ford team-mate, up into third place and earnt the young Finn sufficient WRC points to end his season of mixed-fortunes second to Loeb.
An all-new National Rally ran over six selected stages on Saturday and Sunday. It attracted 90 applications for the 60 places – and universal praise. It was won by Nigel Griffiths and Jon Scott in a Subaru.
The results of Wales Rally GB confirmed Spain’s Xavier Pons as winner of the WRC Super 2000 title and Portugal’s Armindo Araujo retained the Production WRC. Germany’s Aaron Burkart was declared as Junior WRC Champion on the previous round in Catalunya.

2011 There was a new look to the 67th edition of Rally GB with the ‘Sporting’ Start in the North Wales resort of Llandudno, a return after 30 years to the ribbon of tarmac around the Great Orme for the opening two special stages followed by a slippery encounter with the gravel roads in Clocaenog forest then on to a hugely popular Opening Ceremony in the lee of Conwy Castle. And all that in just the first afternoon (Thursday) of the four day event!
Friday saw the 74 starters from 32 Countries head south to stages in Dyfi forest, which first welcomed this event 40 years previously and then onto more traditional forests and military roads in mid Wales. The Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells hosted the partially under-cover Service Park and ‘hub’ of the rally which covered 23 stages and 354 competitive kilometres.
Cardiff welcomed the 40 classified finishers to its castle grounds on Sunday, where Jari-Matti Latvala and co-driver Mikka Anttila were first onto the Finish Ramp in their British-built Fiesta WRC. This was their first WRC win in 2011.
The overall FIA World Rally Championship was decided in favour of Frenchman Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (Citroen DS3 WRC), despite their retirement on a road section after a head-on collision with a non-competing car early on Sunday’s final day. The WRC Academy Cup, with its €500,000 first prize, was won by Irishman Craig Breen, partnered by Welshman, Gareth Roberts.

2012 A September date for Wales Rally GB, with a start along the Llandudno waterfront. Friday and Saturday took in stages in Mid Wales before a return to the South Wales stages of Walters Arena, Rheola and Post Talbot on Sunday. Cardiff, Bay, home to the Service Park, welcomed the overall winners Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikka Antilla in their Ford Fiesta RS WRC on Sunday, followed by Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena in 2nd who had battled throughout the event with 3rd placed Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson. Craig Breen, co-driven by Paul Nagel, won the PWRC battle. The Croeso Trophy, renamed for 2012 in memory of Welsh co-driver Gareth Roberts, was awarded to Sara Williams and Patrick Walsh in the National Rally.

2013 Major changes were introduced to revitalise Wales Rally GB in 2013.
A move to a new service park in Deeside heralded the reintroduction of many of the event’s most legendary competitive stages in north Wales – some in Snowdonia run in darkness – as well as some new spectator-friendly RallyFest stages. The result was a resounding success with not only a bumper entry but also huge numbers of fans not experienced in recent years.
With Sébastien Loeb now in retirement, the newly crowned 2013 world champion Sébastien Ogier – competing for the newly formed official VW WRC outfit – underlined his new-found dominance with a maiden win in the challenging Welsh forests. Former F1 star Robert Kubica stepped up a full WRC-spec car for the first time but was among a number of notable crews failing by the wayside.
Home fans, though, had something to celebrate when local hero Elfyn Evans took top honours in the WRC2 category.

2014 Building on the welcome success of the reinvigorated 2013 event, Wales Rally GB again proved a fitting finale to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2014. A more compact and spectator-friendly three-day route included many of the classic Welsh forest stages as well the popular RallyFests at Chirk Castle and Kinmel Park. Once again the result was a huge hit with both competitors and fans – the entry was significantly oversubscribed while close to 20,000 visitors came to the busy Service Park in Deeside. With the title already settled, the gloves were off as champ Sébastien Ogier and VW team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala duked it out for the end-season honours. In the end, it was the Finn who cracked thus giving Ogier back-to-back wins in Wales. Having announced his WRC retirement, Mikko Hirnonen signed off in style with a strong second spot while Mads Ostberg eventually came home third, but only after local hero Kris Meeke came unstuck when challenging for the ppdium on the final morning. Meeke eventually came home in a highly creditable sixth spot, one place below Elfyn Evans – the young Welshman once again underlining his future potential with a promising showing on home ground.

2015 Sébastien Ogier joined an elite number of drivers to have completed a Rally GB hat-trick, scoring his third consecutive victory with another impressive performance for VW Motorsport in the forests of mid and north Wales. Having just missed out 12 months earlier, Kris Meeke became the first British driver to stand on his home podium since Richard Burns in 2001. Andreas Mikkelsen made it two VWs in the top three while local hero Elfyn Evans produced another strong top six performance. The event again lived up to its fearsome reputation as one of the most challenging on the WRC calendar being was staged in notably wet and windy conditions but it still drew record crowds both to the special stages and to the Service Park in Deeside. More significantly, 2015 saw the Welsh Government extend its support as principal funding partner for the World Championship event for a further three years.

2016 Sébastien Ogier joined an illustrious list of four time winners with his fourth victory in succession. The Frenchman led from pillar to post in what would turn out to be his final UK appearance for VW Motorsport but was chased hard all the way by the DMACK shod M-Sport Fiesta of Ott Tänak. Behind them Thierry Neuville gave Hyundai its maiden Rally GB podium. Despite being awarded with a free Road to wales entry having won the reintroduced and revitalised MSA British Rally Championship, Elfyn Evans was forced to sit out his event with no WRC car available. Kris Meeke, though, gave the locals something to cheer by finishing fifth. The rally – now sponsored by Dayinsure – also returned to English soil for the first time in 17 years with the RallyFest switching to a new home at Cholmondeley Castle plus a non-competitive Friday evening visit to the historic heart of Chester.

2017 Even by its own long-running standards, 2017 Dayinsure Wales Rally GB was a very, very special event. An exciting new breed of more powerful WRC cars attracted a record crowd and they were rewarded with the first home win since Richard Burns’ final success in 2000. Now armed with a DMACK tyred M-Sport Fiesta, Elfyn Evans dominated to become the first Welsh driver ever to win a round of the World Rally Championship. And on home soil! Adding to the celebrations, his victory helped M-Sport to clinch the Manufacturers’ Championship title. Never one to be left out of the Rally GB celebrations, Sébastien Ogier (now with M-Sport, too), finished third to take a fifth Drivers’ title with one round remaining on the calendar. The champagne certainly flowed in Llandudno.

2018 was another historic year for the UK’s long-running round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Sébastien Ogier scored a thrilling victory which not only re-ignited his ultimately successful quest for a sixth WRC Drivers’ title but also meant he became the first man ever to clock up five Rally GB victories. Even more significantly, the event saw World Championship motor sport staged on closed public roads for the very first time, following law changes in Westminster and Cardiff. Small sections of highway were closed to link together hitherto unused forests and the event concluded with a stunning new finale with crews racing around the Great Orme and onto the streets of Llandudno. It was a sensational conclusion to another stand-out Dayinsure Wales Rally GB.

Llandudno was again right at the heart of Wales Rally GB in 2019, this time the seaside town hosted the World Championship event’s central Service Park. All the major teams were based around Venue Cymru with Rally HQ based inside the building’s conference centre. Further changes saw the Ceremonial Start move to the historical Pier Head in Liverpool with the opening speed test on Thursday night staged at the Oulton Park circuit close to Chester. The high-speed action then switched to the more familiar forests of mid and north Wales with title protagonists Sébastien Ogier, Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak locked in an epic three-way tussle for maximum points. Victory finally went to Toyota’s top gun Tänak – a first GB victory for the Estonian who went onto lift his first world title. Keeping the home fans interested, Kris Meeke finished fourth with Elfyn Evans fifth.

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