Today we got to hear what two other team principals think of Volkswagen Motorsport boss’ idea concerning the new, more TV friendly final stage, also known as the shootout stage. Well, essentially we did not learn much from either Malcolm Wilson (M-Sport) or Michel Nandan (Hyundai), but it was possible to read between the lines a bit and extract some opinions and thoughts from both bosses. Personally, I don’t think either of them liked the idea in its current format, even though they did say that now things sound better than they did when this concept was first mentioned a while ago. Yet, neither Wilson nor Nandan were ready to call it a done deal, opting instead for a more careful approach by using the well known and politically extremely correct phrases, such as “we’re still talking” or “this idea is a good foundation for more discussions”. When pushed to reveal more, they delivered the usual “we cannot reveal and details at this point” and that was that. I also found it interesting how both Malcolm and Michel refused to be overly enthusiastic about the often quoted idea recently introduced by Prodrive boss David Richards. He (Richards) thinks WRC should “forget about TV and focus on the Internet instead”, which sounds great for a five-minute revolution but I did not hear any support for this idea from Wilson or Nandan. Why would they support it? Isn’t the idea of “forgetting the TV and focusing on Internet” essentially the same as “forget about Internet and focus on TV”? Are such mutually exclusive scenarios the only solution to WRC problems? I don’t think they are, especially if the current teams and manufacturers are asking for TV. Mr Richards did achieve a lot with Prodrive and he did great things for WRC, but he is not involved in the sport at the moment in any capacity and Prodrive’s latest WRC effort ended in tears, so his ideas should be listened to and considered respectfully, but they’re not ultimate solution.
Why shootout idea is still very wrong?
It’s quite simple – there is no way in seven kingdoms that the idea of artificially reducing gaps between crews for the sake of whatever makes it attractive for TV has any logic or is in any way based on the “DNA of rallying”, a phrase often mentioned by WRC bosses. It must never happen to WRC. There is no way a minute and a half advantage could be reduced to a handful of seconds (less than five, for example). If driver AB is 90 seconds ahead of driver CD before the final stage, then this gap should never be reduced, especially not to such extent! Driver CD is not behind just because he is a bit slower or his team is a bit weaker, as the new gap would suggest! He is bloody 90 seconds behind because he is that much slower, be it because he is not skilled enough or he makes too many mistakes or his team sucks, or whatever the reason. The gaps are this big in WRC because sport is being sidelined by utter incompetence of the people in charge of running it, so we have only couple of teams, cars are expensive as hell, seats are limited and the feeder categories are only just trying to provide more streamlined progress for young and upcoming talents. By squishing the huge gaps into couple of seconds we could fool some people, watching this shootout stage on TV, and they may even think that teams and drivers are very close in terms of pace and skill, but that’s just plain lying and it serves no long term purpose.
I fully support Jost Capito’s efforts, though. I find his goals and motives easy to understand. He said he wants to see Volkswagen remain in WRC for years to come, but in order for that to happen WRC will have to change and bring more exposure to teams, brands and their technical and sporting excellence. Basically he said Volkswagen will be out of here if things do not improve and even though his methods or ideas may be wrong, I do think he genuinely wants to see World Rally Championship evolve and grow in a good way. It’s either that, or he is just an evil agent, sent by Formula 1 to destroy what’s left of once grand World Championship series. Funny thing, this idea would, in its current form, hurt Volkswagen the most, potentially, reducing big gaps to no gaps, dominance to equality. Now, it would be interesting to see how other team bosses would respond to the idea of Volkswagen leaving the WRC, but something tells me they would not mind at all, even though in public they would probably advocate for “the more the merrier” idea instead. Sure, it’s better to have a healthy competition, but it’s not so nice to be beaten constantly by one team, is it?
So in the end, where do we stand now. We know that: they’re talking to each other, they have some ideas, but they sure as hell won’t share any of them with us.
You can listen to WRC bosses thoughts on WRC.com, podcast section.