A prestigious rally event due to be held in Sunderland has been cancelled because of a lack of entries.
The Roger Albert Clark Rally proved a hit on Wearside last year and its return later this month was eagerly anticipated by motorsport devotees.
However, two weeks ago, the Echo revealed how two stages of the rally due to be held in Herrington Country Park had been scrapped, because Sunderland City Council couldn’t afford repair costs “potentially running into hundreds of thousands of pounds”.
The Sunderland leg of the rally, due to start on November 27, had still been due to begin and end at Seaburn Centre, but now it has been cancelled outright.
Colin Heppenstall, rally manager, said: “The Roger Albert Clark Rally Motor Club Ltd and De Lacy Motor Club Ltd are very sad to announce that the 2015 Roger Albert Clark Rally has been cancelled, due to the lower-than-expected level of entries received at the closing date for initial entries. This has been a very difficult decision to make and we have considered all options to try and keep the event running.
“We realise that this will come as a big blow to competitors, marshals and fans alike, as the event has become a key fixture on the rally calendar for many.
“I would like to personally thank the hundreds and hundreds of marshals who have volunteered to marshal on the event, and to apologise for this very sad, but necessary course of action.
“I would also like to thank Sunderland City Council for agreeing to support the event in 2015.
“It is obvious that the event’s current format is not working and a full review of what should happen will now be undertaken by the Roger Albert Clark Rally Motor Club.
“Therefore the club has decided that the event will also not be organised in 2016, but the club will discuss with competitors during this time if there is still a market for this type of event.”
Coun Harry Trueman, Deputy Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Our sincere hope is that the rally will return to Sunderland in the future, and the organisers know the city remains keen and eager to welcome the rally back.
“It is important people understand the reason for cancelling is down to a lack of drivers entering this year’s event.
“The city was ready to host the event’s opening and closing ceremonies and the service area, and the dropping of the Herrington Country Park stages had no bearing at all on the organisers’ decision to cancel.
“We share the disappointment of spectators who were looking forward to watching the race, and the hundreds of people who had volunteered to be marshals. We also understand the frustrations of local hotels, guest houses and B&Bs who may lose out because of the cancellation.”