At the end of the day ‘all’ it took for Volkswagen to retain their World Rally Championship constructors’ crown was a 1-2-3 finish at Rally Australia. That hardly seems like the easiest thing to do at the WRC level but the fact that it is expected at nearly every rally should give an indication of how the sport is struggling in terms of competitiveness between manufacturers at the moment.
Competitiveness is a variable that is also in pretty short supply among the drivers in the WRC field at the moment as well. And WRC’s rally commission sought to rectify just that by putting forward some suggestions to the FIA that it felt would make things a little less than straightforward for the championship leader.
Proposed changes that would put a championship leading driver first on the running order at the start of every leg of a rally were rumoured to have created a rift between defending champion (and this year’s champion elect) Sebastien Ogier and VW rally boss Jost Capito who felt that such a shake-up was needed to hold the interest of a wider audience outside of rallying’s hardcore followers.
Ogier was dead against them and even went so far as to write to FIA president Jean Todt to stop such a change from being implemented.
Resistant to change
It highlighted a rift not just between Ogier and Capito in terms of how a rally should be run, but one between drivers and team bosses/manufacturer heads in general.
A much bigger change on how a rally should be decided was rejected by the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council at Beijing.
The new version of the format would have offered points at the end of each day and a performance weighting in the shootout to reward being fastest throughout the rally.
If, for example, the driver in first place heading into the decider has been a tenth of a second per kilometre faster across the whole event than the driver in second place, then they will take that advantage multiplied by the stage distance into the shootout. So, if the final test was 10 miles, the quicker driver would start with a one-second time advantage.
One second over 10 miles – 16 kilometers – is hardly an insurmountable gap as compared to a driver carrying a 16 second advantage.
For the casual viewers and motor sport enthusiasts it would have meant seeing drivers having to push hard to both overcome and defend their advantage.
Ultimately it was the drivers and traditionalists whose opinion counted more than that of promoters and team bosses when it came to deciding the WRC’s future direction.
Which is likely to feature more of the same as 2014.