Talking about Fafe phenomenon is like talking about why Col de Turini is so famous or Ouninpohja is so unique – you just cannot do them justice by talking – you need to be there, with tens of thousands of fans to be able to experience the magic first hand. By seeing so many fans lining the Fafe stage and comparing them to even more impressive images and footage of Fafe’s rich WRC history, it’s easy to imagine this concept being used more often.
Put simply, why not have Fafe-like stages on every WRC event? A kind of shakedown/testing session with loads of spectators and top WRC crews and teams. And indeed, why not? Ideally, WRC drivers and teams would be put into robot mode, willing and ready to do their travels as required, sponsors would be generous enough to cover extra costs and organisers would spare no effort on extending the main rally week to few more days. No doubt, Fafe kind of sprint events followed by recce and shakedown sounds like rally overload, and I like it, but in reality it’s almost impossible to put together.
For one, it would be extremely demanding for everyone involved, from crews and teams to organisers and their staff. Debate on whether WRC should adopt more endurance character is still ongoing, and to talk about even further extensions to already stretched itineraries just makes little economic sense to begin with.
Speaking of economy, putting extra weekend into WRC week would increase the expenses for everyone involved as well. And it takes no brains at all to see how shaky and fragile WRC economy is these days. Especially if there is no valid justification for extra spending for sponsors – there is (still!) no TV coverage on global level and promoter is (still!) not appointed. Combine that with the fact that in Fafe kind of events crews would not be racing for championship points and it becomes even more clear why one-off sprint events such as this should remain one-off events.
With all that I guess it’s best to leave Fafe alone and enjoy the interesting format invented for it by the Portugese rally organisers. It is a great way to pay tribute to one of the most spectacular special stages in the history of rallying and it might inspire other organisers to come up with inovative ideas of their own. Who knows, some clever new concept might even put a smile on Seb Loeb’s face and make him take back “I’m bored!” comments published recently.
Photo: McKlein Photography