Who will be first to break the ice and announce their comeback to World Rally Championship – Hyundai or Toyota? Is there a chance that General Motors will want to see some of their money go into bringing Opel to the rally’s pinnacle series after they end Chevrolet WTCC campaign? And what about Fiat, surely they would like to join in as well. What better way to make a solid impact with new generation of one of your best selling models than to bring it into hugely popular and globally well covered racing series – Renault better take note and prepare their upcoming Clio IV RS per WRC standards – car already ditched NA 2 liter engine and adopted smaller turbo + Renault is officially not part of Formula 1 as manufacturer anymore, so there…
Some manufacturers from the paragraph above all but confirmed their interest in (re)starting WRC programmes and some are just pure guessing and wishing from my side. Either way, there is no denying many brands are seriously considering WRC. Toyota and Hyundai are allegedly leading the way and they’re both strongly linked to the series. Although there are no official confirmation from either company both are thought to be taking serious steps in making their WRC return a reality.
As a reminder, Toyota was once a major force in WRC before they got distracted by Bernie Ecclestone and their money went into furnace known as Toyota Formula 1 team. Hyundai also did their part as manufacturer team in WRC but never achieved anything worth mentioning aside from occasional invisible fire, malfunctioning windscreen wipers (yes, I’m talking about Alister’s car) and that’s about it.
But as the new teams evaluate the series and wait for the FIA to come up with something to say to public, there are existing teams that may be looking for a way out of the sport. And to nobody’s surprise it’s Ford – they are quite understandably sick and tired of not knowing when and in what capacity will global TV coverage and proper promotion be restored in the WRC. They don’t have much of results to show to the bosses back in Germany and with both TV and promotion also lacking one has to admire the job Malcolm Wilson and the team are doing in persuading Ford’s board to remain spending their cash in WRC.
For now, FIA is still doing something behind the closed door and so far we only learned they are going to use EBU for the remainder of 2012 season – meaning we will be seeing same format of late night reports and that’s it. FIA’s recent announcement also mentioned online video streams, but that’s as far as they went in explaining what that meant really.
Ford is seriously considering abandoning the (sinking?) ship, Toyota and Hyundai might or might not join WRC (compared to F1 there is sooo little WRC can currently offer in terms of media, popularity and interaction with fans), and if FIA does not live up to it’s own promises of seriously thought-out future for the WRC I highly doubt Volkswagen will want to spend too much time and money battling it out with the Citroën – providing French squad will also want to keep playing with itself for that long. Add to this recent statement from Prodrive’s David Richards, who confirmed his team cannot talk to potential sponsors because nobody really know what FIA is up to and what kind of package will they be able to build for upcoming season(s).
Another fairly important aspect of this problems are event organizers – as far as I understand they’re still required to bring 100.000 euro to the table if they wish to retain their spots in 2013 calendar – although I might be wrong since that intiative kind of went under the radar recently. Or rather, after majority of events declined FIA’s ultimatum policy. Despite the fact that events are actually businesses, they should also be part of bigger package and they will surely benefit from more promotion and TV coverage of events – more exposure should ideally bring more sponsors and that could bring the costs down, reduce ticket prices and bring more fans to the stages as well as in front of TVs.
There are some rich kids lining up to buy some ice cream, FIA. Stop thinking how to cater those that wish to sell them ice cream trucks instead. Otherwise they’ll just do what needs to be done and go to Bernie. Or better yet, to IRC.
P.S. Toyota is apparently lacking in-house know-how to start off their WRC programme – may I suggest Prodrive. They did hell of a job with the BMW and Mini and as long as Japanese company takes care of finance and sponsors I’m quite sure Yaris WRC would be up there just like Mini was supposed to be.