Looking forward to 2015?
I know I am. This year was pretty amazing in many aspects, but 2015 has a lot of promise already, and it’s good that it does because WRC should not settle for meh years anymore. We need each new season to be more impressive than the previous one, or at least to maintain the same momentum as the year before. All this means that 2015 will have to be one heck of a WRC season, just because 2014 already was one of the best in a recent history of the sport.
Many aspects were still far from perfect, of course, but we’re dealing with a very special kind of sport here – it’s a touchy feely thing and I like to think WRC is like a rally car, storming downhill on a very slippery and bumpy piece of a gravel forest road, en route towards a very tricky yet also very fast corner. Anything you do at this point must be done carefully and thoughtfully, steer too hard or brake too much and you’ll upset the car (and sport) beyond repair. Significant changes are welcome, otherwise things like the Scandinavian flick would not exist, but must be done with proper planning and a clear vision of the final outcome of this particular maneuver. Things that still aren’t perfect in World Rally Championship usually cannot be fixed by pushing random buttons and hoping for the best. Especially if the sport is finally enjoying some stability, after a very rough couple of years. We can again compare WRC management to a rally car driving – you need to understand the sport as well as the car to be able to extract the most from both. If the special stage ahead of you has a lot of hairpin corners, you won’t simply come to a clever idea of locking your handbrake lever in “active” position, so rear wheel lock is preapplied, even though spectators might enjoy your oversteers and burning rear brake discs. This is the kind of disaster we managed to avoid this year after FIA rejected all power stage shoot-out plans, forever and ever. We also learned that tech rule changes, scheduled to hit our shores in 2017, are going to be more about evolution than revolution, which, at this point, does sound like a much better option.
In 2014 we also had a great fight going on for the title, rallies were not easy to predict and the battle for the drivers’ crown was exciting. Volkswagen did destroy the competition in manufacturer category – on paper, they’re the strongest team, but are they really that strong, or is it just about others not being their very best? In 2015 we should see big improvements in pace and consistency, otherwise some teams and drivers will start running short on excuses. Citroën, Hyundai and M-Sport must take the fight to Volkswagen and be very serious about it – waiting for VW’s mistakes and slip-ups will not do. In Volkswagen, things work, even though Polo might be the best car out there, it wouldn’t be much of a help to a driver lacking consistency and reliable pace. In order to beat Volkswagen, other teams will have to become Volkswagen-y.
WRC also made huge steps in right direction as far as proper kind of promotion and presentation are concerned. WRC+ happened and fans all over the world were finally able to experience the sport in more detail, for a reasonable amount of money. In 2015 I personally hope to see this service extended further, because WRC+ must not stop inventing.
Hyundai, Jari-Matti Latvala, Kris Meeke, WRC+ v2.0, Thierry Neuville, Ott Tanak, Stephane Lefebvre and much more are just some of the things I find exciting about WRC 2015. Oh, and Sebastien Loeb is back…