“So although they know rallying and cars and things like that, it’s still a bit new for them – to understand that they’re going to have millions of viewers around the world watching the roads of Northern Ireland and the landscape – because it’s a motoring event.
“In the imagination of a normal person, a car [in a motor sport event] walks around the tower, and Murray Walker speaks.
“The WRC have been wonderfully supportive of us and have done all the promotion for other events fantastically, but I think we all know we have to somehow appeal to both casual viewers and sports enthusiasts alike. It just takes a long time to get things done – but you basically need the government agency on board.
Willis also stressed how crucial it is for there to be a round of the WRC in the UK, and why he thinks Northern Ireland is the preferred venue for it.
“Every bone in my body tells me that unless we are ready to give up rallying we need to work to get a top event and NI is the only opportunity I think in the UK,” said he declared. “It’s the only place, as far as I understand, that they look.
“One of my main fears is that if we don’t have that top tier, why do we need the second tier? Why do we really need homologated cars? Because we don’t have anything to raise our standards and encourage people to be part of this sport.
“In Northern Ireland we have two or three very good young drivers: Josh McErlean, Will Creighton John Armstrong – Craig Breen was once one of those youngsters – and they do it because there are [in previous years] a path to success.
Willis believes he and his team have strong evidence to back up the potential popularity of an event in Northern Ireland and therefore benefit all parties involved.
“We did a survey of the public’s desire for an NI WRC round, which was aimed at the Republic of Ireland and mainland Britain,” he said. “It went through Facebook and social networks, with 16,000 positive responses. 26% came from NI, GB had 34% and RI 32%.
“We did this just to prove to NI tourism authorities that people were going to come into the country – that could translate to 50,000 overnight stays – and those are the conservative numbers.
“It’s easy to sit in your ivory tower and be like, ‘Oh no, we can’t afford that. Or we can’t do that. We can’t do that. It’s not so easy to say, ‘How can we make it work?’ But I think it’s really important. »
“It’s easy to sit in your ivory towers and say, ‘Oh no, we can’t afford that’.”
Chambers highlighted the effort put into making the event happen, hoping some of that hard work will have a residual impact on a potential event in 2023.
“The UK should have a round of the WRC,” he said. “It’s not just by right of inheritance – which is clearly there – but also simply because we have one of the largest vehicle and consumer markets in the UK – we believe the WRC deserves to ‘be here.
“A huge amount of work is being done behind the scenes. Hundreds of hours spent trying to cross the line and not cross the line when a lot of moving parts are in place, it’s extremely frustrating, but like everything in life you have to draw the line at some point.”