AFTER a hiatus of more than three decades, rallying is set to make a welcome return to the Isle of Wight this summer.

The event, ‘behind close doors’, will be held at Palmers Farm, Wootton, on Sunday, August 21. 

The route will comprise six stages totalling about 32 miles.

Although it will be a non-spectator event, organisers, the Isle of Wight Car Club (IOWCC) — which next year celebrates its 75th anniversary — hope to run spectator-friendly stages in future years.

Isle of Wight County Press: The Isle of Wight Rally stages at Parkhurst Forest in 1987.The Isle of Wight Rally stages at Parkhurst Forest in 1987.

As announced on their website this week, the Island Stages aims to recreate the clubman spirit of the original Isle of Wight Rally, which ran from the 1960s, through to the late 1980s/early 1990s.

The stages are predominantly grass and gravel tracks through woodland and grassland. 

Although it is not a forestry event, like one of the last on the Island, held in Parkhurst Forest in 1987, it should prove challenging and will give drivers the opportunity to drive stages never been driven before.

Rallying was extremely popular in Britain for almost 40 years, with, for many fans, the Group B era considered a golden period of the World Championship — but it came at a high price. 

Isle of Wight County Press:

The intensity of Group B led to a series of major accidents, some fatal, which were blamed on their outright speed, coupled with a lack of crowd control at events, which signalled the beginning of the end for rallying on the Island as the focus switched to safety.

However, the IOWCC continued and have gained plenty of mileage in the discipline of autotesting, which has created a resurgence in local motorsport as young drivers come through, going up against the clock on sealed and unsealed surfaces.

Their most recent Isle of Wight Autotest Championship event attracted 35 drivers, including some from the mainland. 

The IOWCC’s Richard Weaver, of Bembridge, has been rallying since 2008 — following his father Terry’s successful footsteps into the sport — and played a big part in helping to organise the Island Stages.

Isle of Wight County Press:

“We were approached by the landowner, Tim Rogers, about hosting a rally event, so we went and had a look earlier this year. Palmers Farm appeared a lot bigger than expected, so we were able to work out a four-mile stage,” said Richard.

“We then decided we would run it, without spectators, so we can get one under our belts and use it as a stepping stone to hopefully expand the event. There’s no reason why we couldn’t.

“The most important thing is to ensure the first event is run safely and efficiently. 
“We have an incredible organising team, led by Joseph Moore, and with his safe hands, and those of our mainland counterparts, I’m confident of the event being oversubscribed.  

“We want to make club motorsport accessible to all, but for our first rally in many years, taking a careful approach will improve our chance in achieving a sustainable means for doing so.

Isle of Wight County Press:

“The Isle of Wight Rally was once considered one of the best in the country during the 1960s and 70s, but we have had one long hiatus without anything like this.  

“It means a great deal to me — for the family connection and the general love of the sport. 

“I remember as a child going to IOWCC events on the Island and I was definitely mad for motorsport, cars and rallying from my earliest memory. 

“There can be no doubt, competing in local motorsport is the safest and most satisfying way to enjoy motoring in the modern world. 

“Many people these days modify their cars for a variety of reasons, but preparing a car for motorsport provides a specific purpose and framework for doing so, with a particular end result in mind.”

Isle of Wight County Press:

Richard was asked if he would ever see the day when rallying would return to the Island.

He continued: “I’m ever the optimist and I’ve had faith events of this type would return. The IOWCC is in great shape, with a healthy membership and a dedicated committee. 

“The recent Sandown Sprint demonstrated the desire for motorsport on the Island, so we will organise a sprint next spring.”

The event's sponsors, Rally Replay, will be live-streaming from the stages, so people will be able to watch remotely.

Entries are open until June 19.