Wales

Wales Rally GB in £1.4m Welsh government boost for 2012

Sebastien Loeb at Ponterwyd, Ceredigion, on day three of the race
Image caption Sebastien Loeb on the Sweet Lamb stage at Ponterwyd, Ceredigion

The Welsh government is to invest £1.4m in next year's Wales Rally GB.

Business Minister Edwina Hart made the announcement on Sunday, the final day of the event, shortly before she presented the prizes at Cardiff Castle.

Ms Hart said the rally brought benefits to Wales, including retailers and hotels along the race stages "at a quieter time of year".

Jari-Matti Latvala won the rally after leader Sebastien Loeb crashed out of the race.

The Frenchman had already claimed an eighth consecutive FIA World Rally title but his Citroen was too badly damaged to complete the remaining stages.

Global showcase

Speculation over the future of the Wales Rally GB was allayed by Ms Hart's announcement of further funding.

The minister said Wales has 30,000 people employed in automotive manufacturing, retail and maintenance with an annual turn over of £3bn.

Ms Hart said: "The value of the relationship between the staging of Wales Rally GB and Wales' automotive sector should not be underestimated".

"The rally provides an ideal platform for Wales to showcase its wide range of capabilities and technologies to the global automotive market.

"With the funding now in place, we can look forward to an even greater event in 2012," she said.

Loeb, who clinched the world title on Friday, and co-driver Daniel Elena were involved in a road crash in his Citroen leaving stage 18, Halfway.

No injuries were reported but Loeb's car was too badly damaged for him to continue to the next stage, Crychan.

Innovation

The rally began in Conwy, with stages around the Great Orme in Llandudno, the first time it has visited north Wales since 1996.

The four-day, 350-mile (563km) rally route continued through mid Wales, via Epynt, Crychan and Builth Wells before the ceremonial finish in Cardiff.

The rally is the 13th and final round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

It is the first time the rally has visited Llandudno since since 1981 - when the event was called the Lombard RAC Rally and finished in Chester rather than Cardiff.

Andrew Coe, chief executive of Wales Rally GB's organiser, International Motor Sports Limited, said: "We are delighted to be able to extend our relationship with Wales for 2012, as we bring the event to an even greater audience and build on the success of the last decade in Wales.

"We hope to keep bringing innovation and fresh thinking to the rally and are delighted that the Welsh government has committed to joining us on this journey for 2012."

The grant funding is made up of a guaranteed cash sum of up to £1.2m and additional performance related payments of up to £200,000 linked to ticket sales and the generation of other commercial revenue, including private sector sponsorship.

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