Can we at least have rally cars?

Rants, sometimes they’re just that, rants. Endless reiterations of things nobody cares about. I know them, I’ve done them, too often some say. But sometimes you just want to get things out of your system. That, I heard, is a good thing. So please, whether you consider this post to be a rant or not, do know I felt much better after I wrote it. Did it work for you too?

Yesterday I got a little upset over the news that Autosport and its readers picked Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak to be their “Rally car of the year”. Before I go any further, let me admit that I have no idea whether the winner in this particular category of Autosport Awards is selected based on readers votes or the votes from panel or experts and staff. Or the combination of the two. Not that it makes that much of a difference, because in the end, this is not a rally car. It never was, it never will be. And for it to be picked for this award is a huge fail.

To begin with, is it not enough that rally and WRC are being marginalized most of the time, making room for the big shiny Formula 1 and its sponsors, stars and cash? Is it not enough that throughout the season we’ve had countless issues with timing, silly quarrels between FIA and the teams, very basic TV coverage and almost no insight into what the future will bring? Can we at least have a bloody rally car to take the “Rally car of the year” award?

I don’t know about your country, but in some places, mainstream media make little difference between rally cars and racing cars. It’s all the same. Rally, racing, same thing. Should we care if some media outlet mixes apples with oranges? You bet your full-season-of-WRC-on-live-TV we should! Because if the WRC wants to become a household name again, it must enter the homes and TV schedules and slang and become a part of global culture once again. Isn’t it sad that Sebastian Vettel’s finger is the bigger phenomenon than anything related to rallying? It’s no wonder sponsors are nowhere to be found.

And then we have this rally car award. Like a salt to the wound. For some reason, a one-off hill climb car, built to compete in the unlimited category, takes the laurels and becomes a rally car of the year. Who cares if Volkswagen invested gigantic amount of money to produce a winning machine and destroy the competition in their first year of proper WRC racing? Who cares if Ford and M-Sport are working hard to develop Fiesta R5, so hard in fact that they had to add “+” to the latest evolution of the car. Who cares if Hyundai decided to dive in and see what happens with their WRC project – they’re building a car that looks more and more serious each time it’s out on test stages, testing. All that is irrelevant, because PSA built this Peugeot for Sebastien Loeb to compete in Pikes Peak hill climb.

What Peugeot and Loeb did is outstanding, both in terms of engineering and driving. But it has nothing to do with rallying. Granted, Peugeot’s racing machine could have won the sports car award, but alas, that award went to Red Bull Racing’s F1 car. So they crammed this Peugeot into rally car category. And again, it’s not important at all whether the readers or the experts panel picked this car. It never should have been suggested for this category or allowed to compete in it. It’s not a rally car, Pikes Peak is not a rally event and Sebastien Loeb was not a rally driver in that event.

Was Peugeot supposed to win this category, so they did? PSA failed in WRC this year, but behold, their car is the best rally car this year. Yeah I get the points about 208 T16 Pikes Peak looking and sounding awesome, woo hoo and more power to it. Sure it would be supercool if this car turned out to be a rally car of the future and WRC grows out of its tiny B segment into bigger and meaner beasts. But again, this is all irrelevant and it does not make it a rally car in any way.

The fact they put a racing car and call it a rally car is an insult to rally, its fans, teams and drivers. I don’t know whether Peugeot already prepared a PR material bragging about this award, but I cannot wait to see the writing skills of the person tasked to explain what is so rally about a hill climb machine.

Autosport Awards failed hard on this one. Whether on purpose or by pure accident.