Last week, Wexford Stages Rally and Ravens Rock Rally announced their postponements following the Republic of Ireland’s move to level three of its Covid-19 plan. The government update came less than a week before Ravens Rock hoped to become Ireland’s first closed-road rally since March.
The three-week move to level three also affected the Wexford Stages Rally due to run on the 25th of October.
It is the second time Wexford has been postponed. Its initial September date was called off back in August.
Wexford Motor Club’s chairman, Garry Bradley, explained to Rally Insight how the decision to postpone the event again came about.
“When the one-to-five tier system was announced by the government, the directors had a meeting and we agreed that we wouldn’t run a rally if we were in level three.
“We took that decision beforehand. So when the country went into level three, that triggered our action to postpone the event.”
With road closing orders granted, canvassing complete, and health and safety happy with their plans, Bradley was understandably disappointed when the event had to be postponed again.
“It was very unfortunate because we had everything in place, on paper we were 100% there.
“After planning to run two rallies so far this year, both have been stopped at the last hurdle for us. After the work everyone put in for the first two attempts it is very hard to build the morale to go again.”
Despite the setback, a lot of Wexford’s work could still be useful in the future. Covid compliance plans were designed in a way that can still be put in place whenever restrictions relax again.
“On the upside,” continued Bradley. “When we planned the event the second time we built an event that we can roll out straightaway.
“Everything we need is already in place and has been passed by the sports councils, the health and safety authorities, and county council offices.
“Maybe it will be the case that things clear up for two or three months at the start of next year and we can look at running an event based on what we had planned for this year.”
One key buy-in the club has recognised and appreciated has been from the local community. That support was important in the club’s original rally plans. It will also prove invaluable if they do consider another date to run the rally at short notice.
“We were very cautious going into it, even for the first event. I did the canvassing back then with our PRO to get a general feel from the public and we were blown away. We didn’t receive any negative comments.
“The event was seen as a positive thing in the community. A sign that things were starting to look up as opposed to all doom and gloom.
“We were seeing no pushback. I can’t stress how much, it really opened my eyes. Not one single resident complained about Covid-19 when we were doing the canvassing.
“We are currently going back around doing a canvas on the stages we had planned to run and there are a number of residents who are disappointed in the event not coming.
“I have no doubt in my mind if we decided to run this at short notice we would have 100% support from the residents.”
Perhaps one reason for the local support of the rally, which had been cut down from its traditional two-day format to a mini-stages event, was the meticulous planning to counteract any risk of coronavirus transmission.
“There were a lot of changes at planning level to ensure the event was more compact and facilitated what we needed regarding Covid-19.
“The service area was probably the biggest point for us. This is where all the people congregate and it is usually a very social part of our sport.
“We moved our service from a central town area to a remote rural area down a closed stretch of road.
“We had actually planned six separate service areas across five and a half kilometres.”
Spectators have proved to be one of the most contentious issues in Covid compliant rally planning. Nobody wants the avid Irish rally fan to miss out on the action. Equally, there is genuine concern about what would happen if the area was flooded with eager enthusiasts.
The Wexford Stages Rally was set to be a non-spectator event. Organisers had combined a few common-sense solutions with some fresh ideas to ensure fans could keep track of the rally without causing any disruption.
The absence of advertising and route maps would have made it hard to track down the event. Also, a closed loop of stages was set to make it easier to manage access.
“Obviously each of the locations was going to be closed off with fencing, signage, extra marshals, and Covid-19 compliance officers traversing the stages.
“We had been in discussions with a couple of broadcasters to host a live event. If that had gone ahead it would have been the first of its kind.
“There would have been live streams from the stage as well as the end of stage interviews.
“That would have brought motorsport to the public in a new way with the hope that it would encourage people to stay away from the event.”
For the second time in two months, Wexford is left wondering what if. Both Ravens Rock and Wexford had bumper entries ready to hit Ireland’s tarmac stages again.
The appetite is there and restrictions were the closest they’ve ever been to allowing our sport to return.
“All we can do is plan,” concluded Bradley. “When the time comes for us to be able to go ahead then we need to be ready to pull the trigger and get the sport back where it needs to be.”
Photo by Lorcan Barron