The theory for moving this year's Wales Rally GB from the south of the principality to the north was due to the popularity of rallying in the region. Organisers said it would reinvigorate the event. It's worked - and better than perhaps anyone expected.

The fans have been packing into the stages since Thursday morning's shakedown practice stage, with several of the forest car parks filling hours before the cars are due.

In an attempt to broaden the popularity of the rally, the organisers introduced two short 'Rally Fest' stages around National Trust properties. The idea was to emulate the spectator stages that the event featured in the 1980s and 1990s, creating stages far easier for families to get in to and experience world rallying.

Saturday's Rally Fest stage took place at Chirk Castle near Wrexham, and it was a hit - so much so, gate officials simply couldn't get cars into the venue fast enough. The car park had to be shut hours before the first rally car arrived in an attempt to clear up the jammed roads surrounding the venue, leaving some fans disappointed.

It's unfortunate, but the sort of problem that can happen when a new venue is used for the first time, and demand exceeds expectations. Those who didn't make it into Chirk can use their unused tickets to get into Sunday's Kinmel Park Rally Fest stage. That stage has now been made advance ticket only to try and ensure there are no repeat of the issues. 

Ultimately, it's a good problem for event officials to have. After years of declining attendance on the event, it is proof that world rallying can still draw big numbers of fans in Britain, and also that efforts made to revamp Rally GB are paying off. By Saturday evening the service park, which was free to get into, was absolutely packed with fans seeing the cars being tended and enjoying a free concert. There was a brilliant, celebratory atmosphere. The vast bulk of the fans made it to the stages they wanted to, and seemed to have a great time.

The passion for rallying in the north of Wales was clear to see on a trip from the Deeside service park to interview the crews at a regroup in Corris, near Machynlleth. Following the same road section the rally cars were using, our route took us on the same path through a number of small towns, and in most of those a number of families were out to cheer the rally cars as they went past. Some were even inexplicably keen enough to wave at a road car carrying a couple of motorsport journos...

The battle at the front of the rally stayed fairly static on Saturday, with Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier continuing to lead his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. The Finn did set a number of fastest stage times, but it didn't help him close in. Ogier's lead was 20.1 seconds at the end of the day, and 20.3 at the end.

After rolling on Friday, Robert Kubica returned to the rally under WRC rules that allow competitors to rejoin an event they have dropped out of, albeit with heavy time penalties. It should have allowed the Pole to gain some valuable experience of his Citroen DS3 WRC, except he crashed again on the morning's second stage. This time the damage was heavy enough that his car can't be repaired in time for him to rejoin on Sunday.

James Attwood is the editor of Motorsport News, Autocar's sister publication