The organisers of Wales Rally GB have announced a modification to the itinerary of the penultimate round of the WRC season, due to tree disease which has blighted forestry lining one of the stages.
National Resources Wales – who manage the forest estate throughout the rally’s host country – identified a swathe of larch trees infected with the fungus-like Phytophthora ramorum, a process only possible during early summer.
This requires the removal of the section of forest in question, closing off part of the Myherin special stage to allow contractors to undertake the removal works.
To top-up the rally distance beyond 300 kilometres – a minimum figure mandated in the FIA Sporting Regulations – a second running of the Aberhirnant stage will be added to the Saturday morning schedule, adding to its appearance as a night stage the same evening.
“Come October, NRW will be clearing the infected trees out of Myherin, so we have to make other plans,” explained Ben Taylor, Managing Director of Wales Rally GB. “Luckily, we have a route guru in Andrew Kellitt who has crunched the maps and the figures to replace the lost mileage by adding another run through Aberhirnant on Saturday morning.”
Despite what appears to be an easy workaround at first glance, Taylor explained the changes had presented the organisers with several headaches.
“That sounds an incredibly simple solution, but believe me, it has taken about ten route iterations to get there and has had a massive knock-on effect throughout the whole event – stages have been reversed, fuel locations altered and the entire schedule reworked.”
As part of this reworking, the Gwydir stage has been canned outright, pushing the initial running of Alwen up to first billing on Sunday morning.