Q & A with Rally Scotland organiser

On the eve of the second Rally of Scotland, clerk of the course Iain Campbell talks Autosport through the build up to the penultimate round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, which starts in Perth tomorrow night

Q & A with Rally Scotland organiser

Q. Why has the event moved to a more traditional weekend format after it ran on Friday-Saturday last year?

Iain Campbell: When we approached Eurosport about moving to a weekend format they were very supportive, as long as it could fit in with their television schedules. From an organising point of view, it means that we can get a really compact event. With reconnaissance starting on Thursday morning and things finishing by tea-time on Sunday, the amateur competitor can take part in this International event and only take a couple of days off work. It also helps greatly with attracting the huge numbers of volunteer marshals and radio operators required to run the rally safely.

For our partners it means that we should be an even more attractive event to spectators, bringing more recognition to the areas we visit and returning an even better economic impact than in 2009, which was very impressive.

Q. Last year there were two service areas and a remote service. This year you have one service in Perth, what was the reasoning for this?

IC: In 2009, we had a great base in Stirling for rally headquarters and the service on day two. Blair Castle was a great backdrop for service on day one, but it meant a great deal of traveling for the teams - meaning more expense for them and some difficult logistics. The ideal scenario for 2010 was to have one base for the weekend and we have achieved this with Perth Airport.

There is a remote service on day two, in Callander. This gives the competitors 15 minutes to fit any spares carried in the rally car, but doesn't really add to the cost of the event to the teams as only four mechanics can attend this service and no parts, other than tyres can be fitted. It is a real shame not to be back at Blair Castle this year, but it just wasn't feasible with the chosen stages, maybe in 2011 we can do something special there.

Q. You mention the chosen stages, you have dropped two stages from this year's itinerary and shortened others. Is this a lesser event than the inaugural one that drew much praise for its route?

IC: Over the two days there is actually about six kilometress more competitive distance to be covered. The challenge is greater, I feel this year than last due to the length of the loops the crews have to tackle and also the 93 kilometres on day two - and that is only serviced by a remote. Blackcraig is dropped in favour of two runs at the Craigvinean, Drummond Hill, Errochty loop. Due to access issues Blackcraig is not accessible by spectators, so we now have a full day's rallying that the spectators can get to. The repeat of these three classic stages also gives us more mileage.

Errochty has been shortened to accommodate the broadcasting requirements of live television. It is quite a technical challenge to broadcast live from the middle of a forest in bits of remote Scotland, and the equipment Eurosport needs requires space and strong satellite signal; things we could not offer at the 2009 stage finish. On two, we are offering the very best of the Trossachs stages. These stages received universal praise last year, with [Kris] Meeke commenting that Loch Ard was the best stage he had ever done and Matthew Wilson saying that was the best loop he had ever contested in the world.

There is no-way this is a lesser event, as Alister McRae has already stated, he feels this could be the hardest event on the calendar due to each stage having a distinctively different character.

Q. The event starts once again at Scone Palace. The stage has almost doubled in length and had a great atmosphere last year, but many spectators had to endure walking through a sodden field to get to the Palace. What changes are in place for this year?

IC: Scone Palace is just very 'Scottish', it sums up the whole character of the event and makes it stand out. We have increased the stage significantly and once the competitors leave the main Palace roads it is very fast on a part gravel surface around the perimeter of Perth Race Course to the stop line, it will still be very tricky.

On top of this there is the ceremonial start for the top 10 cars and an autograph session to meet the top crews also. This makes the two stages here have more importance to the whole event but still brings rallying to the people on a Friday evening. The extra length [of the stage] offers up more viewing opportunities.

With regard to the conditions underfoot last year; central Scotland had almost three weeks of solid rain in the run up to the event and the ground here normally drains quickly but it could not cope with the continual deluge and became waterlogged. The lessons have been learned and while we cannot tarmac or gravel the pathway to the Palace we will have wider areas marked for access with improved lighting.

Q. Last year was a brand-new event put together in just 12 months. Has this year been simpler?

IC: The 2009 RACMSA Rally of Scotland took a lot out of the team, but the team also took a lot of pleasure, pride and satisfaction at the end with the comments from the event partners; Event Scotland, Perth and Kinross and Stirling Councils, Eurosport, the FIA and the competitors. There were very few criticisms, but lots of praise. So far the planning for 2010 has been simpler in some aspects in that we are now a known entity, the residents know what kind of event is coming to their area, our partners know what we are looking for from them and what we can deliver in return, we know what controls work and what needs improved.

On the other hand we have a completely new location for the service park, rally headquarters and media centre that has to be planned; a new venue for remote service and some changes to the stages, so it is taking as much time and effort as 2009 did, but in different avenues.

It feels as though it hasn't stopped since the announcement the rally was coming in November 2008. What we do know is that we can't rest on our laurels, we have to improve in lots of areas and also have to ensure that we can deliver a world-class event Scotland can be proud of.

Q. IRC has a very new format for rallying with the live broadcast of whole stages from each day of selected events throughout the year. What restrictions do Eurosport put on you as an event organiser to ensure that their desires are met before the events?

IC: None at all, well perhaps one. They very much leave us to it, it is our job to put on the sporting event and it is theirs to film what we provide to them. All they ask is we get the cars to the stages on time and they take it from there.

From an itinerary point of view there are some restrictions that we have to adhere to; the live television stage has to be run twice to justify the investment it takes from Eurosport in the equipment and manpower to film it all, the second running of the stage has to be the last stage of the day, or event to ensure that the story reaches its conclusion for the viewer on that day and the only restriction is the start time for the stage that we are given as this has to fit in with the worldwide scheduling Eurosport has for its two channels.

From the experience of last year, where not only did we have a new event, but we had live television to deal with I can quite honestly say that Eurosport, through Gilbert Roy and Xavier Gavory, are superb to deal with.

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