No Change Please, Current Spec WRC Car and 2019 Competitions Are Just Fine

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There’s a healthy and respectful ongoing discussion concerning the cost of the current generation WRC cars and the ability for privateers and smaller teams to break into and maintain competition at the sport’s top level. There is an argument to scrap the current WRC car in favour of a top level field of more entrants of slower, cheaper R5 cars, or possibly with small tweaks to make an R5+ class.

With respect, I strongly disagree. I’d like to argue the case that there is everything great with the current cars and 2019 could be the start of something brilliant with the newly formed WRC2Pro class.

WRC is Growing, Don’t Shrink It

Few would disagree the appeal, audiences and the reach of WRC as an entertainment series have all increased since the new generation cars arrived in 2017. I can’t back that up with figures but I can’t see a single argument to the contrary. The cars look meaner, faster and evoke the retro feeling of eras gone. In fact they are faster than the previous class and are as fast as eras gone by. Aided by All Live and with continued improved promotion I believe more manufacturers and major global brands would get involved. This means more teams, more sponsorship for private teams and more seats available for top drivers to compete at the elite level. It may take more time and effort to get there but shouldn’t be abandoned.

I understand that these cars are too expensive for a privateer driver to invest in, but I cannot agree they should be scrapped to make things fairer. R5 cars are incredible machines but take away the sponsorship and livery and to the average person they look too similar to what can be seen on a local supermarket car park every weekend. Compare a top level series of these to the mean monsters of WRX and I believe WRC as a brand would lose out on spectacle and appeal. If the audience disappears again I’m certain Toyota and maybe Hyundai and Citroen would leave rally for good. And not just scale back the program. Some top drivers would go too. All we’d be left with is a fairer championship for wealthy enthusiast individuals/private teams to mess around in cars.

Rally’s Stakeholders

  • Car Manufacturers
  • Rally Car Manufacturers
  • Wealthy Privateers
  • Sponsored Privateers

The Manufacturers Toyota, Hyundai and Citroen sell road going cars to the public. This is why they spend fortunes competing in the WRC. Only the latter is running 2 of 3 cars in 2019 due to the last minute withdrawal of title sponsorship. This a decision of private matters not in response to Citroen’s performance or the appeal of WRC. It’s possible Citroen could find another in time to recruit a 3rd driver for 2019. There’s no other known concerns of budget.

The Skoda and above manufacturer R5 programs are all in rally to sell R5 rally cars to privateer rally drivers. There’s no known concerns of budget. Skoda do not get any way near as much promotion as the WRC manufacturers.

Uniquely M-Sport are a manufacturer of WRC and R5 Rally cars. To justify a WRC program M-Sport need at least one of four things:

  • To sell WRC spec rally cars – entry then a commercial decision
  • Backing from Ford – commercial decision
  • Financial backing title sponsor – entry then a sporting decision
  • A championship contender – sporting decision

Unfortunately for them, their fans and fans of private teams at the elite level (of which I am one) they don’t currently have any of these things. I don’t believe anybody can argue the rules are wrong. If M-Sport wasn’t a business then Malcolm Wilson may consider the gamble personally but that is all it would be. As circumstances stand their natural home in 2019 is WRC2Pro, and maybe this is where their efforts should lie. As much as I’d like to see them in the WRC, I’d rather see them compete than lose. It could be argued a year out of WRC may encourage Ford to put them back in.

Privateer Drivers and small teams get a championship of their own next year. This is the level playing field for up and coming drivers, and feeding the manufacturers championships with talent. Those that want to compete for the top prize and remain independent will need major financial backing to do it. There has never been a time where this hasn’t been the case. For the wealthy ‘Gentleman driver’, nothing has changed and you would still be able to compete in a given rally. There doesn’t need to be rule changes in a championship to accommodate this.

Summary

Obviously a company selling tens of millions of cars a year has more budget than a company that sells thousands. And when they have different audiences too it makes perfect sense to have two manufacturer championships. One full of spectacle, wow factor and glamour that appeals to the wider public (and sells cars), and one that appeals to the hardcore rally fan and competitors (and sells rally cars). There would also be a separate privateer championship for said sold rally cars to be used in. This is what we will have in 2019.

  • WRC as chiefly an entertainment series featuring the best drivers in the world, and sells cars for manufacturers.
  • WRC2Pro for rally car manufacturers giving opportunity to the next generation of driver talent, and additional entertainment for the enthusiastic rally fan.
  • WRC2 a fair and equal championship for privateer entrants to compete or demonstrate their abilities to manufacturers without breaking the bank. Also entertainment for the enthusiastic rally fan. This may be the more sporting series.

I simply cannot get behind the argument that the entertaining, modern WRC has to make way for the fairer WRC2 levels. It has never been easy to get to the top of any elite motorsport competition. Next years rules don’t make it any different.

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