What Next For The WRC?
What Next For The WRC?
November 17, 2013
For several years, until this year, the mighty Citroen Works team and the astounding ability of Sébastien Loeb have maintained a stranglehold on the top spot of the World Rally Championship. The Ford Works team were always the eternal second and understandably got a bit cheesed off with this. They withdrew the Works outfit at the end of the 2012 season and left it to the M-Sport organisation to fly the flag for the Blue Oval.
This year Volkswagen have come storming in with a superbly prepared Polo and, driven by Loeb’s former whipping boy Sébastien Ogier, have swept all before them. Citroen have languished in their dust.
Understandably, they too are a bit fed up with this and it would come as no surprise to DriveWrite if they packed up their tent and moved on.
Citroen are a company in some trouble. It seems doubtful that they have huge sums of money to throw at two top branches of motorsport. They are running Works cars in next year’s World Touring Car Championship (Loeb again) so at least a partial withdrawal from the WRC seems likely. The question then is - who challenges mighty VW?
Hyundai are entering the fray with a Works i20 team spearheaded by super-talented driver Thierry Neuville, poached from the M-Sport Ford team. They have certainly done their homework but will it be enough to topple World Champion Ogier? And if not them, who? We have the same situation in World Rally as exists in Formula 1 where it’s Red Bull and the others.
Now, the UK lacks media coverage of WRC. If it wasn’t for the efforts of ITV4 we wouldn’t see it at all. They have upped their game a little with our home event but what of next year? The broadcasters have to look at the bigger picture and can't, they say, really cater for minorities when it is advertising revenue that counts. The BBC, as you know, has scaled back live presentations of F1 because of the expense. F1 right now is sometimes boring but remains hugely popular so they persevere.
The domination of one team does lessen the appeal and the same goes for the WRC. It’s a great sport that is so much more than a simple contre le montre event but unless it is competitive it is simply not going to get back on TV in any meaningful way. Those of you who remember sitting up late to watch the night stages of the Monte Carlo rally will know how exciting it can be. WRC - and also IRC - have to start getting their message across right now to get coverage for next year. The danger otherwise is that this tremendous branch of motorsport will become moribund and sink without trace once and for all.
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