Sunday 20 September 2015

Rally - Decision time

On Tuesday night this coming week, deep in a cave in Lanarkshire, the Bears will be faced with a terrible decision. With only 40 entries confirmed for the final round of the national Scottish Rally Championship on the 3/4 October the organisers have to make a decision. Does it run, or does it not?

Route and recce complete
This time last year, the Coltness team had 59 entries with 88 cars and crews starting their Colin McRae Stages Rally. That was still a bit close for an event which needs around 75 entries to break even. Hence the concern this year at this same time. Do they bite the bullet and hope, or do they give up now in order to live to fight another day? Unless a significant number of additional entries are received over the next two days, the event could be in doubt.

The difference is that if the club cancels now, it can survive, but if the decision is taken to go ahead and make the financial commitment - and then is forced to pull the plug later, it could ruin the club’s finances.

Folk who think such decisions should be left till the last minute don’t understand the economics of running a rally. Deposits have to be paid this week for hotel rooms, facilities and equipment hire.

Machinery ready to roll!
This money will be recouped from entry fees with the balance used to pay the Forestry Commission bill after the rally. On that basis it is simple economics to determine how many entries at what charge are needed to break even while including predicted income generated from fund raising activities and/or sponsorships. Any shortfall has to come out of reserves or personal pockets, hence the anxiety.

No club wants to make such a decision. Given the hours of pre-event preparation on paperwork and route, meetings with local folks in the area of the event, from foresters to council officials, and from police to local businesses, the last thing they want to see is all that effort and personal cost going to waste.

This year the workload on organisers has increased due to changes requested by the Scottish Government and stricter operational guidelines introduced by the sport’s governing body. That’s not a complaint, it’s a simple statement of fact. Workloads are reaching intolerable levels for amateur organising teams short of manpower and money.

If the event then doesn’t run, that money is lost. A considerable amount that no amateur car club can afford to lose. At this point it becomes a simple matter of economics, the head has to rule the heart. If the club goes bankrupt then rallying is the loser. Not just for now, but also in the longer term.

It’s no good blaming the competitors either. Everyone starts their season full of fight and fervour for the campaign ahead, but mechanical failures and accidents have a detrimental impact on intentions and budgets with the result that the later events in any championship series, generally speaking, are less well supported than the earlier rounds.

This was the principal reason the Merrick was done for, and now it looks as though the final round could be hit too.

And should the final round fail to run this year, what will happen to multi-venue rallying and the national championship next year? In addition to lost rounds, the Granite and the Scottish are going BRC, but in a different format to the Jim Clark Rally, so will that affect the national appeal of their events?

The trouble is, if an event fails to run after much hard preparatory work and long hours, what impact will that have on the morale and enthusiasm of the team. Coltness has a thriving grass-test series and a well supported twice-monthly social night. The club will survive, but rallying will lose out.

Make no mistake, multi-venue rallying in Scotland is currently at a very critical stage and the future is looking bleak.

Clubs sink or swim by the success of their own events and their calculations. It all boils down to one thing for would-be rallyists. Use it -- or lose it. Your choice.

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