Large crowds turned out in Chester as stars and cars from the FIA World Rally Championship roared into the heart of the city.
Following a high-speed blast through six classic mid-Wales speed tests on Friday, competitors in the Dayinsure Wales Rally GB headed back north towards the Rally Village in Deeside. But en route, they stopped off for a popular parade through Chester's famous Eastgate, which earlier in the day had hosted the start of the WRGB National Rally, an event that lets keen amateurs compete on the same bill as the world championship heroes.
The Roman city was the scene for the late Colin McRae's 1995 title celebrations, and has always had a special link to the WRC.
Dayinsure Wales Rally GB managing director, Ben Taylor, said: “It was wonderful to see so many smiling faces all round – it was a great event.
“The drivers got fully into the spirit of the occasion as they posed for selfies and signed autographs, bringing a great atmosphere and entertainment to an historic city that has very close ties to this sport, stretching all the way back to the 1980s. Chester has long been synonymous with the WRC, and it's fantastic to keep that story going into the present day.”
No fewer than 75 international crews descended on Chester's busy main thoroughfare, with the drivers taking time out to meet and greet fans before passing over a ramp underneath the city's iconic Eastgate Clock to offer their thoughts on the rally so far. All of the WRC's leading lights were in attendance, lapping up the warm welcome.
“It was fun to return to Chester after going there for the first time last year,” said world championship leader Sébastien Ogier. “It's a beautiful city and a lot of people turned out to show their support. British rally fans really appreciate the sport, and they gave us a fantastic reception again.”
“It was great to see so many people out in Chester, and all of them so enthusiastic,” echoed Toyota's Jari-Matti Latvala, who spent the formative years of his career competing right on the city's doorstep in Wales. “Initiatives like this are important because they allow us to really bring the rally to the fans and right to the heart of the city. There was a great atmosphere.”
An extra-special cheer was reserved for M-Sport's Elfyn Evans when he climbed out of his Ford Fiesta WRC. The Welshman went on to clinch his maiden WRC victory on Sunday.
“It was a long drive to get to Chester after what had already been a long day, but to arrive to so much support and passion from the fans really made it worthwhile,” he said. “Although Chester is obviously in England, there were plenty of Welsh flags in evidence, and that's always nice to see.”
See full story in the Chester Leader