Inside Revolution: Introducing Jonathan Jackson
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First of all – hello! – it’s a great privilege to be writing this piece as Head of Rallies and Cross Country. I have now had a couple of months in the role, and I feel like I am finding my feet here at Motorsport UK HQ. Many of those who know me already, will know that I am a lifelong Rally fan. It has been a passion (some might say obsession!) of mine for as long as I can remember. If you had told my younger self that he would one day head up the sport within the governing body, he simply wouldn’t have believed you. But that obsession doesn’t just stop with Rallying – if it has an engine and wheels then I have an interest, so to also be heading up the Cross Country community is an honour, and I can’t wait to work a lot closer with such an enthusiastic community going forward – but more on that later.
My interest in Motorsport has been heavily influenced by both my dad and my Grandad. My Grandad was a class winner at a Sprint held at Brands Hatch in the 50’s/60’s in his Frogeye Sprite. My Dad dabbled with co-driving in the very early 1990’s, before moving into organisational and safety roles – he has been Event Safety Officer for the Cambrian Rally since the early 2000’s and is now a Safety Delegate; with my brother also on Rallies Committee, it’s a real family affair! For me, though, my motorsport life began on the Cambrian Rally in 1994 when I was taken to watch the event for the first time. To give you an idea of the anorak you’re dealing with here, I could take you to that very corner in Alwen Forest today!
My childhood was spent attending events with my dad, while he was undertaking Radio duties, watching my heroes in the Welsh forests at the height of the Formula 2 era of the British Rally Championship – it’s little wonder I became so hooked!
After many years marshalling, I competed in my first event at Blyton Airfield in November 2010. From there I have been very lucky to work my way up through the sport, beginning in Formula 1000 and BTRDA Rally First with the sole target of getting as much experience as I possibly could. Moving from there, I contested the BRC Challenge & Fiesta Sport Challenge in 2013, culminating in making my WRC debut on Wales Rally GB at the end of that year.
In 2014 I joined forces with Meirion Evans who I still sit alongside nine years later. We have been very fortunate to be able to compete across the UK and Ireland, in the British and Irish Rally Championships, but also in Belgium and France, where we joined the hotly contested 208 Cup in 2018 – this experience ranks among the highpoints of my career. The opportunity it gave me to expand my International Rallying knowledge is still proving beneficial today.
In August of 2022 Evans and I took our first International victory on the Ulster Rally. Throughout our career together, we have invested a significant amount of time in ourselves as a crew to progress through the sport as best as we could. To win an International victory in the Irish Tarmac Championship was the ultimate reward for all those years of hard work. We then followed that up with another win in Galway this year – an amazing season so far.
Intertwined with my own Motorsport career, I have supported the Junior 1000 Rally Championship – a fantastic series which allows drivers to get into the sport from 14 years of age. It really is a great opportunity for young drivers, but also for us more ‘experienced’ competitors to help the future of our sport as best as we can. During my time, I have sat with the likes of George Lepley, Finlay Retson and latterly Ioan Lloyd – who is now making great strides through the sport. It is very rewarding seeing the drivers you’ve sat with progress, knowing you’ve helped them in a small way; I’d highly recommend any co-driver to get involved and help these youngsters on their path.
Work in progress
In the UK, we are very lucky to have such an enthusiastic Rallying and Cross Country community – who are extremely passionate about their respective disciplines. We have long been world leaders across every aspect of the sport, forging the way in Safety – much of which is now utilised by the FIA – Accessibility, Training… and more. However, it is this collective passion that makes the sport so special.
When I joined the organisation in late February, it immediately become apparent that there are absolutely the right intentions for the future of our disciplines in this country – plus the desire and willingness to back it up. I am very grateful to have such strong support from the Executive Team here at Motorsport UK to do whatever it takes to shape our disciplines. The community is very vocal in telling Motorsport UK their views – and we hear you, honestly, we do! One element I am working on, with my colleagues in Marketing, is to have a step change in the communication strategy for our disciplines, so we can be more open and transparent with you, our community, as to what we are doing to ensure that we still have a sport to enjoy in the future.
We are currently in full throws of building up the UK Rally Strategy, for which we have held the first hour-long introductory sessions for the seven working groups identified following the Rally Forum held in November 2022. While I won’t go into the finite detail of the UK Rally Strategy in this introduction – we will have a dedicated piece around that in a future issue of Revolution – so please keep an eye out for that.
Make no mistake, we fully understand the scale of what there is to do – and not just in one specific area, but across the entire sport. As I said to the members of our Rallies Committee recently – everything is back on the table. The sport has changed beyond recognition in several areas, and there are lessons to be learned from previous periods of change, so it is important that we take this opportunity to look at everything again. We also must identify that this, to a greater degree, is our last chance to get it right. However, I honestly see this as the best opportunity for a generation to make positive change so that our sport can flourish. We have two fantastic disciplines so we should shout about them, get more people involved, and show them what they are missing out on!
For the immediate future, there are things that Motorsport UK will be doing to help the growth of the sport, and to support those who dedicate their free time to it, we will:
- Make it less bureaucratic for event organisers
- Make it more accessible for people to enter our disciplines
- Make it easier to understand – and implement a vastly improved communication strategy
- Review all costs to competitors
These are just a few examples, and trust me, the list is much longer, but this isn’t going to happen overnight. There is a lot of work to be done, and a lot of consultation with the community, via Rallies Committee, in order to make this happen. As a result, there may be short periods of instability while some changes are implemented, but I am committed to see this through, and I ask you all to please bear with us and to support us where you can.
Building on success
Remember, there are some fantastic, good news stories out there: Targa Rallies are flourishing, Road Rallies are maintaining their popularity, there are Stage Rallies and Championships which are seeing fantastic entry and registration numbers, and there are more Closed Road events in the pipeline.
At this point I can hear those in the Cross Country community very rightly saying “well, what about us?”. I am committing to you all that Cross Country will have its own strategy document, beginning in 2023, because I do completely understand your frustrations too. It is you, the Cross Country community, that will help us drive this strategic policy, much like your friends in Rallying. We are lucky to have the assistance of Chloe Jones, herself a British Champion, here in the Motorsport UK office, but it is hugely important that we harness the enthusiasm of the community, and honour the pride felt throughout in what we do to move the discipline forward. Again, everything is on the table here too, and we will provide plenty of opportunity for you to give us your honest feedback.
It is my intention to get out to events across the disciplines over the next few months, as I am very keen to meet as many of you as I can. I will also reiterate that you are very welcome to contact me at any time if you would like to provide any feedback or ideas that you think will help us develop the sport – you can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly, I want to say a big thank you for all you continue to do for the sport, whether as a competitor, or as one of our incredible volunteers. Please trust me when I say that I am listening, I am taking notes, and I am acting. With your help, we can ensure that we have a sport fit for the future.
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