With all my heart I hope FIA is hard at work in preparing what can only be described as WRC 2.0, The New WRC or The best WRC of all times. They don’t want to talk about it, they don’t wish to be distracted – they just want to do the best job possible. After all, these are not the people you see roaming about special stages with no real clue on what’s going on. I sincerely believe FIA and it’s WRC experts are doing what they can and then a whole lot more to improve the show. But I do!
With that in mind, I would like to share few ideas on what could be done to further enhance the experience for all the fans around the world. Especially those that cannot afford to travel to WRC events and witness the action live, or meet their heroes in person. And no, this will not be about live TV stages, thank you for asking.
Currently, average WRC fans cannot really say they get to see or hear their sporting heroes very often, except in TV reports from WRC events (and these are too few and too short) and through official press releases from teams ahead of and after each rally. Apart from that WRC drivers and co-drivers are hidden away… here and there an odd quote or even full interview appears in major publications (those big enough to be interesting to either drivers or teams) and that’s it. There is no constant stream of news, rumours, gossips, analysis and most of all there is no real interaction between the drivers and fans. And this is something WRC should really consider improving.
One possible solution could be to organize Q&A sessions with drivers and co-drivers ahead of each WRC round, or at least on few occassions over the course of the year. Questions could be collected from fans in advance and then presented to drivers and co-drivers for answering – I would be ready to trade one of the FIA event press conferences for this. Because fans really deserve to be there – if not in person than through their questions – they want to meet the drivers, learn about them and their job, not just listen to worn out stories about tyres and weather and “for sure” tactics over and over again.
Whoever gets to be the new TV god of WRC, should strongly consider using TV for bringing more show into the sport. I know, TV and show, these two don’t really mix. But seriously, instead of talking about weather and tyres and lining up 1000 “for sure” statements, there could be an option in each event for one team to present one aspect of the inner working of WRC squad. For example, give Mikko Hirvonen a microphone and have him talk to some key member of his team about the work that guy is doing – it could be car mechanic, it could be tyres guy, or weather guy, or BBQ guy… it will bring more fun into it all, and fans will finally be able to go behind that sterile curtain that is covering WRC events for those not able to attend them in person. Mikko or Citroën don’t really feel like doing this? Then make them, they must be part of the show and they must do their part to improve the series. And I highly doubt Citroën (or any other team) would say no. There is a driver who goes around under the nickname of Mr. Hollywood – for WRC’s sake, make him earn the right to keep that nickname!
Recently FIA “stunned” WRC community by reiterating their decision to continue working with the EBU as TV operator for the remainder of 2012. But more importantly, they dropped a bit of info mentioning online video streaming. Does that mean they’re also working to improve social aspect of the sport and it’s coverage. After all, the dreaded “social” networks are all around us and since everyone is already glued to their smartphones’ and tablets’ and whatnots’ screens, WRC could as well use it. Organize tweet Q&A sessions or have fans send their WRC photos for some Facebook photo contests, opportunities are endless…
In short, FIA and their media partners should really devise a way to adopt some of the methods and philosophy used by American sporting champioships and shows and get fans included, get drivers more involved in the making of the show. Because WRC crews already are stars because of what they do and how they do it, and I’m sure most of them are not primadonas, so there is really no real obstacle in just putting them to do some fun work for the fans.
Recent Sebastien Loeb’s trip to US and dominating victory in X Games round of Global RallyCross proved few things – WRC guys can drive like no other, but Americans can really put up a show and deliver it to the fans (despite the X Games round being maybe not the best example of each… concrete blocks, gaping jumps, itching hosts anyone…). And to make it clear, this is all just part of the bigger picture, the one that will hopefully solve all the sporting and regulatory issues, bring in new teams, but fans must really be treated as equal, if not even above that, for WRC to survive and succeed.