The first ever motorsport that I became interested in was the FIA World Rally Championship. I remember staying up late in the early 2000s to watch the likes of Colin McRae, Richard Burns, Tommi Mäkinen and Marcus Grönholm tackle the demanding stages of the WRC and battle it out for the championship. It was the action, the thrills, the camera work and the amazing cars that kept me fascinated in a series that was on a completely different level to everything else. Whilst my interest faded slightly in recent years I always told myself that one day I’d make it to a World Rally event…and this year it all seemed to come together just in time for the rally of legends, Wales Rally GB.
Fellow photographer, Tom Loomes, and I, made the journey across half the country to visit some of UK rallying most famous stages. We started by visiting the qualifying stage at the Llandegla Forests to catch our first glimpse of a World Rally car. After almost a 2 mile walk from where we parked the car we finally arrived at the stage just in time to hear the distinct roar of a rally car.
People seem to be of the opinion that modern World Rally cars are not as exciting as the cars of the past, whilst this may well be true to a certain extent the modern crop of 1.6 litre four cylinder hot hatchbacks certainly are still thrilling to watch power through the Welsh forests. The cars leap and dive into corners as well as rearing up under acceleration creating a real sense of movement and action. Not to mention the sound…they all have a classic rally car sound of popping and crackling through the woods. Nothing has ever woke me up more than hearing that powerful, turbocharged sound echoing through the woods. It’s a sound you simply can’t forget.
Llandegla was a short stage, but captured something that I wasn’t quite expecting at WRC. The atmosphere. I’ve been lucky enough to visit legendary races such as Le Mans, the Nürburgring 24 and the TOTAL Spa 24 Hours this year – all of which had a great atmosphere but WRC placed itself right in there amongst the legendary events. The international crowd that the event had bought in was incredible, on my travels I saw; Scandinavians, French, Italians, Spanish, Germans, Polish, Russian as well as members of the United Kingdom. Such a huge turnout for an event that has struggled in previous years. WRC is most certainly on the up.
The crowd itself isn’t unruly, isn’t aggressive nor is it full of spotty teenagers. The crowd is a friendly place to be around. Rally fans seem to appreciate how long the days can be and that everyone is there for the same reason. On the subject of rally fans a massive thanks is needed to the local rally fan who gave me and Tom a lift up the Great Orme on the Sunday, we didn’t catch your name but really appreciated it.
Another, frankly, awesome element to the World Rally Championship was the additional air show. Okay, so it wasn’t a planned air show but the superb helicopter pilots in the WRC responsible for bringing back that stunning aerial footage really are something special. Nothing seemed to be beyond these guys, flying between wind turbines, hovering above cliff faces and flying at some insane speeds. I even took a video, by chance, showing the film collection process whilst out on the Great Orme…
This just about ends Part One of my coverage from Wales Rally GB and the FIA World Rally Championship. There’s certainly more to come from this event.
Coming Soon FIA World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB, Part 2