The government has announced a three-month public consultation on amending existing legislation to allow organised motorsport to take place on public roads.
The move follows a campaign by the Motor Sports Association, the UK’s sanctioning body for the sport, which made the issue a pillar of its general election manifesto.
Ben Wallace, MP for Wyre and Preston North is behind the move, working with Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport Mike Penning.
Both believe the MSA’s proposal to ease almost impossibly restrictive rules relating to organised racing on public roads could boost UK motorsport and its related industries, as well as bringing economic and social benefits to those communities that wish to host such events.
Mr Penning said that he wanted to “establish how we can deregulate the matter from central Government bureaucratic control, while ensuring that local communities do not have such things imposed on them.
“Those involved can perhaps come together in a consortium with the MSA, which will issue the licence for any motorsport activity. We are in a very exciting situation.”
The MSA has asked successive governments to empower local authorities with the right to suspend the Road Traffic Act without having to resort to an Act of Parliament.
Such an amendment would open up the way for stage rallies, sprints and hillclimbs to take place on a limited number of British roads, as happens across most of mainland Europe.
A study by the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University concluded that 20 motorsport events held on closed public roads could bring more than £40 million into UK communities in the next five years.
The MSA says that the report analysed the economic and social impacts of closed-road racing and found compelling evidence to support the MSA’s proposals.
British motorsport legend and safety campaigner Sir Jackie Stewart said of the consultation: “The British motorsport industry is one of the UK’s most successful enterprises and we indeed lead the world in this field.
“There are many other countries that use their roads on a temporary basis for significant sporting events that attract worldwide interest. In many cases it can even progress safety standards on those same roads for the benefit of the general public and all road users.”
Former F1 world champion Nigel Mansell OBE has also given his backing to the proposals: “This would be a great move forward for the sport in the UK and would bring visitors and pride to parts of the country that wish to stage such events.
“I am delighted that this government seems to be willing to embrace motorsport which will assist the UK’s world-leading position and improve the sport’s ability to help provide opportunities and focus for young people.”
Colin Hilton, MSA Chief Executive, added: “We are delighted that the government has recognised that a minor change to the Road Traffic Act could have huge benefits, not only for the sport itself, but also for the communities involved.
“We are grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for Transport for listening to our proposals with such an open mind.
“As the governing body, we are proud of our excellent track record of safety and risk management, and throughout the consultation process we will be demonstrating that proper safeguards are already in place to ensure that these events would be safely and responsibly staged.”