Rally drivers will compete without the crowds when a popular event returns to the north-east next month.
More than 120 crews from across the UK and further afield have entered this year’s Grampian Forest Rally, which takes place at Crathes on August 14.
But with just a couple of weeks to go until the event, organisers from the Stonehaven and District Motor Club have announced it will run without spectators.
Rally secretary Gordon Ritchie said the “challenges” of organising an event during the ongoing pandemic had left the club with no othe choice.
He added: “It is immensely difficult to plan all aspects of a major sporting event against this unknown changing framework.
“We need to take into account the rules and guidance issued by the Scottish Government, the protocols agreed between Holyrood and Motorsport UK, the requirements of the various landowners, in particular Forestry & Land Scotland and the views of the local authority.
“In light of all this, the Grampian Forest Rally organisers have made the difficult decision to give early notice that the rally this year is confirmed as ‘non-spectator’.
“The entire event organising team have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to try and overcome the challenges presented by the pandemic and are disappointed with the decision.”
The Grampian race has been part of the Scottish Rally Championship since 2016 and showcases around 45 miles of the region.
For the first time in more than 30 years, the event will also be a qualifying round for the British Rally Championship.
‘A disappointment to many’
Mr Ritchie explained that the Grampian Forest Rally differs from other sporting events as it does not take place in a “fixed venue with pre-sold tickets”.
He added: “It is true that there have been sporting events held with large crowds, including football, tennis and of course the British F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone but all of these events are in fixed venues with pre-sold tickets.
“Entry to these events is controlled with people perhaps giving evidence of vaccination status or Covid test results and with the contact details of ticket holders available for Covid Track and Trace. None of this can apply to spectators at a forest stage rally.
“We understand that this will be a disappointment to many, no more so than us, for the fans and event partners.
“However, in the interests of the sport, we do ask that you act responsibly, stay well clear of the forests over the rally weekend and do not make travel arrangements into the area.”
Rally fans will still be able to enjoy the event from home as the British Rally Championship plans to share extensive coverage through its social media platforms.
The Scottish Rally Championship will also be streaming live broadcasts throughout the day.
Event organisers will share more information about the Grampian Forest Rally in the coming weeks.