For me the worst thing about this “idea” is the fact that it still remains nothing more than idea, as far as we, the general unknowing public are concerned. If it weren’t for Autosport’s articles, we would have no idea they (the people ruling, shaping and otherwise doing things to WRC) are toying with this… thing. And then, when they finally do speak about it, it’s vague, incoherent, a bit of this, a bit of that, but nothing solid. Makes you wonder why do they bother sharing this little info in the first place – they know very well what the reactions will be. Or do they?
The very existence of this… oh how I hate calling it “an idea”… thing suggests that things aren’t exactly rosy in the WRC garden. It also suggests promoter is not happy with the return of investments into live TV. Finally, it suggests teams are also not happy with the way promoter is (not) promoting the sport. And what is the universal solution to all this? Why powerstage shootout, of course! As I said many times already, I always hoped this was just some crazy brainfart, you know, things that just come to your mind and you dismiss them instantly. Nope, not this one. It did not make any sense the first time we heard about it, it doesn’t make any sense now, and I am quite confident it won’t make any sense next year, if they really decide to push this nonsense and turn it into reality.
The scariest thing about all this? For me, it’s the fact that it’s actually one team that is pushing this. Volkswagen’s team principal Jost Capito is living and breathing for this, it seems, and his arguments are scary, very scary. On one hand, I don’t blame him. He is probably unhappy with the way WRC is promoted and presented at the moment. Maybe teams think promoter is doing its best, meaning it’s the sport that needs changes, radical changes. Why? Because, according to Volkswagen, current format and rules of this sport are: a) boring, b) too damn complicated. No, they’re not boring or complicated to you and me and millions upon millions of WRC fans out there, but they are boring and too complex for this “new audience”, the so called “people who are not the hardcore rally fans”. I’m not exactly sure what kind of people are those, but they don’t sound like a very focused bunch. Which makes them ideal audience for the new WRC, dumbed down, fast food version of the sport. Maybe that’s exactly the kind of audience Volkswagen and Red Bull are targeting for their products. The consumers with the attention span of a caterpillar, thick and unable to understand few basic rules of the sport unless the latter is turned into lobotomized version of itself.
Perhaps Volkswagen and Red Bull are right. Perhaps you cannot sell anything these days unless it’s loud, shiny, easy to digest and you don’t need more than 5 seconds to understand it. And nobody cares if 5 seconds later you forget all about it. If these are the predispositions to live TV WRC, then we’re doomed. If the future of the sport lies in the fans who are not able to understand few very basic rules about the sport, then what’s the effin point of it all? Admittedly, I have a very limited knowledge of WRC rules, I don’t know every single thing written in the rule books, but I am able to grasp the concept of “many cars driving on timed sections, times add up to total time, the guys with least amount of minutes and seconds win”. Is this really so complicated?
I don’t think it is. But the fact still remains, promoters have no idea how to sell current WRC to this new audience, and without new audience WRC is not going to make it. Instead of trying to figure out how to present and sell current format of the sport, promoters are looking for a way to sell at least something. And as 90% of everything we see on TV these days prove, if it’s stupid, it’ll sell. Animal shows are my favourite examples, it’s not good unless the host is VERY loud, jumps on crocs, wields snakes and whines about the dangers of his job. Don’t even get me started on storage wars kind of shows.
“It’s also very important for the manufacturers that this kind of programme could be understood by those people who are not the hardcore rally fans – this would help to bring them into our sport.” says Jost Capito of Volkswagen Motorsport. Into what sport? What will remain of this sport once you’re done mutilating it? Let me illustrate this nonsense in case you’re one of the “new audience” people.
Sebastien Ogier leads the rally after two full days of rallying, and he has built a 1 and a half minute lead ahead of Mads Ostberg. They come to this stupid shootout stage and Mads is faster by 1 tenth of a second. Voila, Mads is the new winner, because he was faster on this stage alone. WHICH PART OF THIS IS NOT STUPID, you idiots?
What happens to Ogier if he crashes on this final stage. I mean, he is technically out of the event, but how will you explain this to this “new audience”? It’s simple. He’s not out of the event, instead, he ends in second place because you can only lose one place in the shootout. Adding more variables to the mix won’t do, because you could end up making everything complex again.
Maybe WRC was never meant to be a five-billion fans kind of sport, maybe it was never going to be easy to present and make money from, but fuck, it survived decades sticking to the same basic principles. Perhaps promoters and teams should just try harder in promoting current format, because it’s exciting, wonderful and has this fantastic aura of tradition. Volkswagen did wonderful things last year promotion wise, what happened to that?
In the end, we’re once again put on hold until September, not the first time that happened. And in the meantime nobody will talk to fans, discuss these ideas and problems in public… Maybe because we, rally fans, are inherently too stupid to understand anything.
I’m hoping our only beacons, WRC Live crew, will try their best in Argentina, asking questions and getting some answers from the people directly involved in all this.
— Becs Williams (@Becsywecsy) April 30, 2014
Article on Autosport.com can be read here.