Rallye Monte Carlo was amazing, and it’s not too long before the second rally of the season gets underway in Sweden. Plenty of things to be happy about, great new team, talented young drivers, well produced it not very well broadcast TV footage… great start to new season! Yet many questions still remain, and there are many cracks and gaps to fill and bridge in WRC, before it returns to it’s former glory and stops being the odd sport of some enthusiasts.
Believe it or not, there ARE people out there who have never heard anything about WRC. Just check popular online communities or forums, and you will see questions about the sport from people who accidentally caught a bit of footage on TV or Youtube, and realized this could be interesting. And when such newbies ask questions, you can be sure they will be the very basic ones, from car specs to the ultimate mystery of results and special stages structure. It’s hard to say how many potential WRC fans lurk in the dark corners of the Internet, not even realizing they could be having so much fun enjoying this magnificent sport. It is those fans that WRC must persuade and it’s those fans that need their information, right now, all flashy and wrapped in loud, shiny and fast paced package… but with a touch of WRC character and class.
This guy, Ken Block, he is doing it right to some extent. Does rallies in Rally America series, competes in Global RallyCross, takes a few bows in WRC and is Youtube phenomenon with his Gymkhana stunts. And, to top it off, is very successful entrepreneur. His style is loud, in your face, and honestly not my cup of tea, but this is how sports work these days. I like to compare it to shows on Animal Planet. Before Steve Irwin and his “jump on a croc and keep shouting very very loud no matter what you do” approach, shows were a bit more tame and much more informative. Now, all you see is hosts shouting, screaming, jumping on poor animals, all while camera guys are suffering from epilepsy seizure, judging by the shaking and zooming frenzy. And you’re no animal show host unless you wield a snake or two in each episode. Sports today is more of that, it seems. Package it nicely, give it a glossy iPhone finish and make sure it’s loud, frantic, and try to compensate lack of contents by noise and that infamous camera work! Take Global Rallycross for example, really – bam!, one camera, shouting host, hot chick, bam!, another camera, shaking of course, everyone yelling about, making it look like ultimate sporting spectacle, while in reality is just some guys doing circles on strange tracks, and trying not to die on silly jumps.
But WRC can and should learn from both Ken Block and Global RallyCross, but also from much tamer and more involved successes such as IRC and new European Rally Championship. WRC needs package, both in terms of well-rounded TV/media presentation, to the way it talks to existing and new audience. There is no need to push it over the edge, we don’t really want rabid monkeys jumping around service parks, screaming about how “awesum these guise are, Oh-eM-Gee” and calling each driver a dude. But some polishing is required, maybe even some noise, but do not try to be louder than cars and brighter than the stars that sit in them and risk their lives, doing what they love. WRC is pure class, always was, and under no circumstances should this be replaced by some noisy show with no true substance. Polish it, maybe tune it’s engine a bit and give some personality to the sport and it’s stars most of all, but leave the classic bodywork in place! Because WRC is about yesterday and 40 years ago as much as it is about today and tomorrow – rich heritage makes is what it is today, among other things.
Based on what we saw so far, Red Bull Media House and their TV partners are on the right track. Shame we have to scour the Youtube for stolen footage, but let’s say they are working on fixing that, while in reality we have no idea if that’s true. Regardless, footage is great, and shows the ideas they have are good, they just need to expand it beyond TV and reach out to new frontiers using every available tool. At least they have loads of those available… social networks, radio, TV, print, Internet. Revamp the WRC website, add more contents and less effects, or adopt the Volkswagen way and present contents in impressive new way!
There is much work to be done in WRC, no doubt, but after years of standing still, we can at least feel things are moving in some direction. It is slow, and we’re still not sure if the direction is a good one, but we are finally moving!
Oh, and before I wrap this one up… if Red Bull and FIA are not ready to disclose their immediate & long term plans for WRC, perhaps they could reveal the state the Championship was in when they took control of it? I’m sure that would reveal many not so nice things.