Widespread closed-road rallying on mainland Britain came a step closer yesterday when the government announced a consultation into the matter.
The key requirement for allowing more stage rallies on closed public roads - the Jim Clark International Rally in Scotland is the only event of its kind on mainland Britain - is to transfer power for the suspension of the Road Traffic Act from government to local authorities.
Without that power, any rally hoping to suspend the Road Traffic Act is faced with funding an Act of Parliament, which is a protracted and costly process.
The announcement was made in Westminster yesterday and was secured by Ben Wallace MP and involved Mike Penning, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport. Both Wallace and Penning were unanimous in their belief that the proposal from the Motor Sports Association could significantly boost British motorsport and bring social and economic benefit to the areas where events including rallies, sprints and hillclimbs would take place.
The government will begin a three-month public consultation to establish how existing legislation can be amended.
Three-time Formula 1 world champion Jackie Stewart has given the consultation his full backing, saying: "I wholeheartedly support the initiative to introduce the opportunity for motorsport to utilise appropriate public roads for sporting events. The British motorsport industry is one of the UK's most successful enterprises and we indeed lead the world in this field.
"There are many other countries that use their roads on a temporary basis for significant sporting events that attract worldwide interest. In many cases it can even progress safety standards on those same roads for the benefit of the general public and all road users."
MSA chief executive Colin Hilton added: "We are delighted that the government has recognised that a minor change to the Road Traffic Act could have huge benefits, not only for the sport itself, but also for the communities involved and we are grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for Transport for listening to our proposals with such an open mind.
"As the governing body, we are proud of our excellent track record of safety and risk management, and throughout the consultation process we will be demonstrating that proper safeguards are already in place to ensure that these events would be safely and responsibly staged."