CLWYD SOUTH AM KEN SKATES met with Welsh Government Sports Minister Huw Lewis on Thursday and urged him to support moving the Wales Rally GB to North Wales later this year.
Rally organisers are considering switching the event from Cardiff which has been based in the capital since 1999. Organisers have confirmed they are looking at locations in North Wales, including Wrexham, Deeside, and Conwy to host this year’s World Championship event.
The AM also discussed the future of the Etape Cymru closed road cycling race with the Minister and said branding North Wales as the ‘Racing Capital of Europe’ could bring millions of pounds of activity tourism revenue into the region.
Labour AM Ken Skates, who also sits on the Assembly’s Enterprise and Business Committee, said:
“I met the Sports Minister this week to press the case for moving the Wales Rally GB to North Wales. I understand organisers are considering locations in North Wales and told him Wrexham and the forests around Denbighshire would be an ideal place to hold some of the stages.
“The benefit to Cardiff last year was calculated at £2.7m, with the total benefit to Wales being around £20m. The event could bring in millions to the North Wales economy and really help North Wales develop a reputation for hosting top-level racing events.
“Wrexham could play a huge role as the administrative headquarters of the race, with racing teams basing themselves in the area. In addition the Clocaenog Forest could provide some of the most stunning backdrops in the world for the race.”
It is believed that this year both the start and finish of the event (running from 14th to 17th November) could take place in Llandudno, with the ceremonial start in front of Conwy Castle.
The AM, who also discussed the future of the Etape Cymru closed road cycling race with the Minister, added:
“North Wales traditionally misses out on hosting major, arena-based sporting events because we don’t have the large capacity rugby, football or athletic stadia in the region. However for events that use the natural backdrop of an area, such as rallying and cycling, North Wales is a perfect location.
“The Welsh Government in partnership with local authorities needs to come up with a major strategy to help North Wales host big racing events which can then help generate major tourism spin-offs which can drive the regional economy.
“The Welsh Government provides significant investment support for events such as rallying and where possible this funding has to be directed towards areas like North Wales to host events tailored to its strengths.
“This is a big opportunity for North Wales which could brand itself as the Racing Capital of Europe. If we can work together and be joined up in our thinking we could attract a greater share of the fast growing market in activity based, experience-based, leisure tourism.”
In 2012 the Welsh Government provided a funding package worth £1.4million to support the Wales Rally GB event.