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When six-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier talks, the rally world listens. But there are times when the speedy Frenchman should be ignored. This week is one of those times. In a podcast interview released this week, Ogier called for WRC events to be shortened to "two intense days of competition". His reasoning is that it would reduce the amount of time the teams are away on events, but surely that's the reason we have a "world" rally championship, to travel and compete around the "world". I understand that the time poor WRC circus spends a lot of time away from home and from their families, but just in case they'd forgotten, that's what they signed up for! In recent weeks we've had to put up with highly paid footballers complaining about going into 'hubs' that enable them to play the game they so desperately want to get back to playing. "Let us play," the trumpet, "but don't take us away from our families for weeks on end".
Guess what? You can't have your cake and eat it too.
Rally drivers and their teams are no different. Sure, there will be budget cuts made and the way rallying is run won't be like it was before COVID-19, but shortening the rallies won't be the difference between teams competing or not. Let's cut costs in other areas. Testing, components, tyres, the number of people attending events, the time spent doing reconnaissance. Whatever. But don't punish the fans by reducing the number of days (and stages) they can watch their favourite drivers participating on. The WRC is the elite of the sport. The lucky countries involved get one chance at running a rally each year, and their fans once chance to see the action on home soil.
Thousands spend their hard-earned money and use their annual holidays to watch their heroes in action. To have the number of competition days reduced by a third makes no sense at all.
If we're going to do it though, why stop at rallying? We could have the Le Mans 16 Hours, the Bathurst 660. AFL games would be over at three-quarter time, Test cricket would conclude mid-way through the third day, Grand Slam tennis matches played over three sets, and on it goes. We understand times are changing and that sport as we know it will probably never be the same again, but reducing the length of the competition is a dumb idea. If the drivers aren't happy with so many days away from home, move them on, replace them. There are plenty of other young hot-shots out there who'd happily take their place. And for a much cheaper price as well. Ponder that when you're next debating the escalating costs.
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