The FIA World Rally Championship will return to the heart of the historic city of Chester for the first time in 20 years this October as the Wales Rally GB field visits the iconic walled city after the first day of competition in the forests of mid-Wales.
As the climax to a special 'Chester Rally Week', the crews will start arriving in Chester at just after 1830hrs on the Friday evening, passing under the famous Eastgate Clock - said to be England's most photographed clock after Big Ben - before stopping on Eastgate before proceeding through the official time control on Bridge Street en route
to an overnight halt at the Deeside Rally Village in neighbouring Flintshire.
"It's going to a fabulous occasion and I'd like to thank all those in Chester who've worked so hard to make this possible," said Ben Taylor, Wales Rally GB managing director, "We are constantly looking at exciting new ways to widen the rally's appeal to both existing fans and new audiences and this special evening in central Chester will certainly do just that. The city has a particularly strong link with the WRC events of the past, so returning to these hallowed streets makes this return all the more exciting."
Indeed, Chester has long been associated with Britain's round of the FIA World Rally Championship. It first hosted the ceremonial start and finish back in 1979 and was last included 20 years ago in 1996. Honouring Colin McRae's victory at Chester Racecourse in 1995, the traditional pre-event charity forum – just one of a number of pre-rally events - will be held at the same venue on Wednesday 26 October.
"Hosting this element of the event is a huge coup for Chester and we're delighted to see the Dayinsure Wales Rally GB returning to the city after so many years," said Carl Critchlow, BID Manager at CH1 Chester BID, "As part of Chester Rally Week, motorsport fans will get the chance to see and meet the drivers, teams and cars from the World Rally Championship, all set against the iconic backdrop of Chester city centre. These rallies attract an international following and we're expecting thousands of people to visit the city for this special event, providing a significant boost to footfall on our high street."
The competitive route for the 2016 Wales Rally GB, which runs between 27-30 October, was announced at start of the month, with 22 timed special stages totalling 208 miles set almost entirely in the classic Welsh forests, making this year's event the longest and most challenging since the rally's successful move in 2013 to its new base in Deeside.