Paul Lawrence shares his thoughts on Britain’s closed-roads rallying culture, and why the Jersey Rally should be at the top of your visiting list.
Motorsport News column by Paul Lawrence.
UK rallying has undergone a massive overhaul in the last four years since legislation to allow competitive motorsport on closed roads passed through government.
As a result, there has been a series of closed-road special stage events up and down the country, attracting massive attention and big entries from drivers keen to compete on closed asphalt roads. There is not much like driving at competitive speeds on public roads in terms of bang for buck.
But in the excitement of new rallying events like those in Clacton, the North West, the East Riding of Yorkshire and Ceredigion in Wales, it is easy to overlook the fact that the British Isles has long since had several outstanding closed roads events, notably on the islands of Mull, Man and Jersey.
The Isle of Man story goes back 60 years, while the Jersey Rally will mark its 40th running next year. Mull has its own magic and devotees return year after year to a closed road rally with a 30-year history.
All three are fantastic events: extremely well organised and offering tremendous special stages. Typically, the Isle of Man has two closed roads events each year, one in the spring and one in the early autumn, while the Jersey Rally runs in October. Jersey is an absolute gem, albeit largely undiscovered by many. The small Channel Island offers a remarkable challenge as the Jersey roads, whilst mainly impeccably smooth, are usually narrow and bounded by high banks, stone walls and hedges.
This is a rally that rewards patience and precision and it is not an easy event to finish with 26 special stages over two days, covering more than 100 competitive miles. It is also a pretty relentless event for the participants, which makes the performance of young Frank Bird this year, on his Jersey debut, even more praiseworthy.
He arrived in a state-of-the-art Ford Fiesta Rally2 and was clearly the pre-event favourite, despite having never seen the roads until the recce. Yet his performance was outstanding, as he blended pace, maturity and control to deliver a great victory.
Once again the Jersey Rally was a fantastic event with nearly 90 starters including a welcome smattering of visitors from the mainland as well as those from neighbouring Guernsey. However, it still deserves a bigger profile for, as closed roads rallies go, it is right up there with the best of them.