Tourist chiefs’ drive to woo World Rally Championship

YORKSHIRE’S drive to host top-class sporting events has moved up another gear with efforts under way to bring the World Rally Championship to the county.

Last month it was revealed tourism chiefs were bidding to bring the opening stages of the 2016 Tour de France to Yorkshire.

Now it has emerged high-level talks have also been taking place in a bid to host the Great Britain leg of the FIA World Rally Championship, which could inject millions of pounds into the local economy.

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Talks between MPs, the tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire, World Rally Championship promoters and local authorities have been going on for several months.

Yorkshire hopes to replace Wales as the host of the rally from next year, running through to 2014. Sponsorship is a key element with around £4m believed to be needed to cover the three-year term.

A submission to rally promoter’s North One Sport would need to be made over the summer with a decision on the 2012 event expected in September.

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones said: “Our region is well suited to host this world-class event because of the marvellous facilities we have and the back drop of our beautiful countryside. Economically, this move would also be a boost for Yorkshire, attracting visitors to our area and bringing inward investment.”

The event would involve three to four days of rallying across the county, including town centre stages – likely to include Harrogate – forest road stages and the potential for the return of night drives.

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “We have the support, facilities, the iconic stages and the infrastructure to host a world class rally that would project an exciting new image of Yorkshire to the world and we are fully supportive of a Yorkshire bid.”