Nobody will admit it, but the current scheme simply isn’t working for the WRC or at least it’s not enough to satisfy the (understandably high) ambitions. Sure enough, even one or two special stages shown live on TV are better than nothing, but it’s not nearly enough. Just ask manufacturers, and by manufacturers we should really first think Volkswagen and partially Hyundai. World Rally Championship is not Formula 1; no matter how you twist it, there is no chance you’d be able to present all its excitement and awesomeness and spectacle in one or two stages. It’s easy for rallycross or touring cars, but it does not work for rallying. Even the infamous and completely bonkers shootout stage would fail miserably, because people must understand rallying to be able to enjoy it. By simply throwing couple of stages live randomly at people you should not expect to see huge audience and growing interest for the sport.
What rallying and WRC in particular needs is a spectacle built around it, not into it. WRC needs more interaction with fans on all levels and across all social networks and media. For example, series’ sponsors could organize some competitions on national level and then fly some fans to certain events, go out into everyday news and media. WRC needs more TV shows between the actual rallies, dealing with events, teams, cars, drivers. I can appreciate the idea of turning WRC into something closely resembling a reality TV show such as anything you see on Discovery or History Channel these days, I can but I won’t. Instead of catering to the lowest common denominator, why not invest into producing a high quality documentaries then push those to prime time TV. Surely a motor sport series as old as WRC (and rallying) has a few interesting stories to tell. Group B, Colin McRae, Richard Burns, Lancia, Flying Finns… and that’s only scratching the surface. Why do we need to make everything stupid, idiotic, stupid and then also stupid these days? Make a high quality material and show it at right times and I am sure sport would benefit. It does not have to be boring or based only on old drivers and team bosses discussing the good old days with a tear in their eye – but I am confident WRC can be promoted and presented in a clever, focused, entertaining and informative way. And not turn into stupid self along the way. How about making a dedicated online channel dealing only with WRC featuring video reports, live stages, live onboards, interesting documentaries, stories about drivers… you know.
What’s stopping live onboards from happening?
Also, this question. Why oh why can’t we have live onboards in this day and age? Or live tracking? Everything is live these days, everything. Yet, for some reason, WRC is still not able to bring video signal from the cars to our TV screens, or maybe even better, computer browsers. Sell the access, slap some banners and ads on the streaming frames for internet viewers, but there is simply no viable excuse to not give us what we’ve been asking for. Privacy and legal issues? Fine, I’m sure same privacy regulations are used for circuit racing. Make it so that only top three or top five crews will have live streaming, then delay it by 30 seconds and have each stream monitored by a qualified person, in case something happens and stream must be blocked in case of bad accident. Thirty seconds delay is nothing, can even make it a minute – when splits are not working we’re in for a much longer waits and delays than this. WRC knows how to wait.
What? What’s that? What will it cost? What will what cost? Extra people to monitor streams? The tech needed to get video signal from cars to TV and internet? Well slap me silly, but did they think it was going to be easy and cheap? I’m sure shootout idea would be much cheaper, but the results would be equally cheap. Promotion, in my limited understanding of the matter, also means investing. Promoter is not actually expected to invest, but they must, wait for it, promote and by promoting attract backers and sponsors who will then, can you guess, invest. I am actually quite surprised, maybe even disappointed, by Red Bull (yes I know Media House is a separate thing, but how separate it really is?). They’ve been sponsoring motor sports events for years, even WRC with Citroën and Sebastien Loeb. It’s not like they were forced into this and now they have no idea how to crawl out of this mess.
Times are strange for WRC, again. We are constantly being told our sport is boring and not TV friendly. The only alternative we hear is lobotomy. Currently, my only consolation is the strong belief in the community and wise people in and around the sport, surely they would not allow WRC to dissolve into something… unnatural.