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– Wales Rally GB is a fitting finale to 2014 FIA World Rally Championship
– Record crowds visit the buzzing central Service Park
– Family-friendly RallyFests provide great entertainment for all ages
– Legendary Welsh stages challenge the world’s top drivers

Last weekend’s Wales Rally GB (13-16 November) has been hailed as a universal success by all involved in the UK’s concluding round of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship – drivers, teams, local and national government bodies, commercial partners and, perhaps most importantly of all, the record number of fans.

The famous sporting showdown was revitalised 12 months ago following a move to a new home in north Wales, and this year’s WRC finale has built significantly on what was achieved in 2013.

The revised, spectator-friendly schedule proved to be a winner, providing competitors with all the formidable challenges expected in the legendary Welsh forests and huge numbers of fans with trouble-free access to improved viewing areas.

Activities commenced in sparkling style on Thursday evening with a public autograph session and dazzling Opening Ceremony under the floodlights at Eirias Stadium in Colwyn Bay. It was a new venue for the rally and no fewer than 5,000 visitors took advantage of the free admission policy. Eirias Stadium was an instant hit with the teams, too, many rating it as the best Ceremonial Start of the entire WRC season.

With the formalities complete, the spectacular competitive action blasted off early on Friday morning on the unforgiving gravel tracks in mid-Wales. Befitting a World Championship finale with a full capacity 160-car entry, conditions were predictably tough and the positions on the leaderboard fiercely fought.

For Saturday and Sunday, the itinerary moved back to north Wales and included two family-friendly RallyFest stages at Chirk Castle and Kinmel Park. Both proved immensely popular, offering enhanced entertainment and easy access thanks to an improved traffic management system. The high-octane action concluded with the stunning new iRobot Brenig Power Stage, with live television coverage beamed right across the world to millions of avid viewers in more than 150 countries.

Finally, after three days of intense and dramatic rivalry, the spoils of victory were awarded to Sébastien Ogier. The newly crowned 2014 World Rally Champion received the coveted Peall Trophy from the Deputy Minister, Ken Skates, in front of thousands of cheering spectators on Mostyn Street in Llandudno.

“Wales Rally GB 2014 was a spectacular event both in terms of the rally action and the crowds who turned out to enjoy the atmosphere of this iconic event for Wales,” he said. “I’d like to thank the organisers and especially the volunteers who made the 2014 event another success. We’re already looking forward to next year’s event.”

Staging both the Ceremonial Start and Finish, Conwy County increased its involvement as the event’s Official Host County in 2014. “The Rally has once again proved to be a wonderful event for Conwy County,” confirmed Graham Rees, Conwy’s Cabinet Member for Tourism, Marketing and Leisure. “On Thursday, Eirias Stadium provided a spectacular start, and the crowd of around 15,000 in Llandudno on Sunday enjoyed the marvellous finishing ceremony. The feedback I’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Of course, the real importance of these events is the economic benefit to the area, with Wales Rally GB worth £10m to north and mid-Wales. It provided a great boost for tourism in the area, with rally fans and their families from all over the UK and overseas staying in towns and villages across the County and visiting the rally stages and events.”

Participating drivers and teams were equally enthusiastic with their praise, too.

“It’s a great event, a huge challenge and one which I love,” complimented Ogier after completing back-to-back victories for Volkswagen Motorsport. “All the stages in Wales are beautiful; you’re lucky here, because you have plenty of nice stages to choose from. You’re spoilt for choice!”

“It’s a fantastic rally,” confirmed Britain’s top driver Kris Meeke. “Everything to do with the event has worked like clockwork and the fans out on the stages are incredible. Wales Rally GB is unique – undoubtedly one of the most prestigious events on the WRC calendar. The final stage in the dark on Saturday was absolutely fantastic – probably one of the best experiences anywhere in rallying.”

With close to 20,000 spectators visiting the busy central Service Park located adjoining the Toyota Engine Plant in Deeside, the teams were every bit as impressed with the stellar event’s spiralling status and popularity.

“When we came here last year, I thought it was a great platform to build on,” said Malcolm Wilson OBE, Team Principal of M-Sport. “I was surprised then by the number of spectators and this year it’s even more fantastic – probably double the numbers. It just goes to prove that this is the right location to host Wales Rally GB.”

“I think it was a great venue,” agreed Michel Nandan, Team Principal of the Hyundai Shell World Rally Team, which was making its debut on the event. “There was so much going on in the Service Park that it created a real atmosphere. The rally organisers did a good job; the stages were beautiful and provided a good show not only for the spectators but also for the drivers who had good fun driving on them.”

Jost Capito, head of Volkswagen Motorsport, echoed those sentiments. After watching his team score its 12th victory of the campaign, he lauded: “The rally in Wales is always a very special event; it’s very tricky, very difficult but that’s what makes it so exciting. For the drivers, it’s really just Monte Carlo, Finland and Wales that they all want to win. The organisation was first class. There were lots of spectators on the stages and all behaving very well. They are really knowledgeable and good fans. The Service Park was fully packed, so it was really enjoyable, really nice.”

With the outstanding event receiving such universal praise from all quarters, Wales Rally GB managing director Ben Taylor was understandably delighted.

“Whether from Government, competitors or the thousands of fans who’ve been incredibly exultant on social media, all these acclaims are great reward for all the hard work that so many have put into this rally,” enthused Taylor. “The rally was reinvigorated last year and we wanted to maintain that positive momentum by creating a truly world class event in 2014….”

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