Another major international sporting event could be held in the region if a proposal to host a round of the European Rally Championship 2015 receives the financial backing of councils.
Harrogate would be the ‘host city’ and the Great Yorkshire Showground the hub of the two-day event which would see professional motorists race through forest terrain.
Taking place over the weekend of October 31 and November 1 next year, the event would be screened on Eurosport to a global television audience and would be expected to attract well over 50,000 spectators to Harrogate alone, according to a report to be considered by North Yorkshire County Council on October 3.
The Yorkshire Post first revealed talks were underway to host a ‘Yorkshire Rally’ as part of the European championships which comprises of events in 11 different countries.
But a decision on whether the event should go ahead rests on the financial commitment of hard-pressed local authorities and their backing would have to come in time to pay a sanction fee of €350,000, or approximately £285,000, required by the sport’s promoter Eurosport next month.
Once that commitment has been made, further approaches for financial contributions can be made to the private sector confident in the knowledge the Rally will definitely take place, the report says.
The business case has been drawn up by Councillor Chris Knowles-Fitton, leader of Craven District Council, and a team of “expert backers”, and it has been circulated to local authorities.
The York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership and the local District Councils’ Network are also due to discuss the matter in the coming week, Coun Knowles-Fitton said.
“Eurosport is desperate we hold the event for all sorts of reasons,” he said. “A number of council leaders are very enthusiastic and if we can get the political will, we can find the money.”
Asked what the chances were that the proposal would receive the backing it needs to go ahead, he said: “I think it’s better than evens.”
North Yorkshire County Council leader, Coun John Weighell cautiously welcomed the proposal but wanted to receive more details: “We would welcome it, clearly, but we have to consider what the financial implications would be because we have also got the Tour of Yorkshire that we have a commitment to and we have just had considerable investment in the Tour de France, and we have to take into account the benefits to the wider economy of North Yorkshire.”
Special stages of the event could be considered at Temple Newsam Park, Harewood House and Bramham Park, in Leeds, Duncombe Park, Helmsley and Oliver’s Mount, Scarborough. Harrogate would stage the rally’s opening and finale.
Coun Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, said: “We’re looking at the proposal and we’re interested. We need to have further discussions internally and with our partners. Things can always be turned around quickly if the will is there.”
Peter Dodd, Welcome to Yorkshire’s commercial director, added: “This has the potential to be a really positive addition to Yorkshire’s already exciting range of major events.”