Back in its glory days the World Rally Championship was the biggest motorsport series in the world. Drawing crowds all along the stages with many more joining globally thanks to television. The entertainment value of man and machine flying over some of the worlds toughest terrain was priceless. This sport was bigger than Formula One is today. Where did it all go wrong for WRC?
Whilst rallying is still highly regarded and seen as arguably the motorsport requiring the most talent, the days of fire breathing supercars leaping through the air are long gone. Today we have b-segment hatchback battling it out, which is entertaining, but only to those who avidly follow the sport. WRC needs to be appealing to the masses, a spectacle that captures the attention of the everyman.
A new top class of car that focused on technological advancements would not only see some amazing competitors, but might encourage new manufacturers into the sport just like Le Mans has done. Imagine Peugeot entering with a mid-engined hybrid rally car or Subaru returning in a electrically turbocharged WRX. The race for new technology would drive the competition into being innovative. Generate enough interest in the new cars and production variants could do well in showrooms bringing back the “race on Sunday, sell on Monday” mentality.
We also need a new breed of homegrown heroes. This country, the UK, has a long history with rallying. We still morn the loss of greats such as Collin McRae and Richard Burns, but where are their successors? Figure the crowds can get behind, chant their names and aspire to be. Our nations passion for all things four wheeled and fast is at its best when a national talent arrives.
Racing liveries play a key part in creating the spectacle. Let us have less of banks sponsoring hatchbacks and more of desirable brands backing prototype cars. Martini racing could provide the nostalgia whilst companies like BP might offer up something new using the green and yellow of their logo.
The world of WRC is changing dramatically in 2017, but what we will end up with is still yet to be seen.