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There has been plenty of speculation over the past week about what the WRC calendar will look like in 2018, and which events will be added. RSM’s Martin Holmes spoke to bosses of all four WRC manufacturers to get teams’ thoughts on what has become a critical issue within the sport.  

MICHEL NANDAN - HYUNDAI MOTORSPORT

Michel NandanHyundai Motorsport Team Principal Michel Nandan speaks about the path they think the WRC should follow.

Michel Nandan

“None of the existing events are bad.  It is true that Hyundai are asking the FIA to have more events outside Europe because Hyundai as a manufacturer is interested in worldwide. “It is also true we must then drop some country.  We would have liked to go again to China which is a big market and it could be good to be there.  Unfortunately it did not happen. “It would be good in the future to have maybe an extra event in South America and Asia.  That would be important for Hyundai and for all the manufacturers. “To maintain the championship we should not have too many events in the year.  13, 14 maybe 15 could be good, but when you start to really raise the numbers it starts to be difficult, not talking only in terms of cost, but also logistics. “It is also true we are discussing logistics so that you do not keep travelling unnecessarily around the world, by combining successive events in the same region, but sometimes that is not easy because each event has its own calendar requirements during the year. “If we are to have more events outside Europe, we need to keep roughly the same total number in the WRC, but that means removing some, which is very difficult to do.  Some of the rallies have their own organisation problems, like Sweden struggles every year to have snow, but it is good to have winter events. “The teams do not make the decisions.  We suggest some ideas because we are asked by the Promoter for ideas, but in the end they must ensure the events are capable of being properly organised.  We have seen last year that things in China meant the rally was not going on. “Before deciding the calendar, the rules say there should be a candidate event the year before to see if the organiser will be able to organise the required type of events.  All we can say is that we would like to go to such and such country, but if there is no such existing event or if an event is not able to comply with the WRC’s standards, then it is too difficult. “It is the work of Promoter and the FIA to find some other countries which can run correct events.  

RICHARD MILLENER - M-SPORT

Speaking in the service park at Bostalsee before Rallye Deutschland 2017on behalf of the M-Sport team was Richard Millener, the team’s Customer Liaison Manager and the right hand man on rallies for Malcolm Wilson.

Richard Millener

We asked if he thought the dream of the WRC Promoters to introduce new events into the championship was achievable – or desirable. “I think there are opportunities to have new rallies outside the championship, but they have to be carefully selected, and we go to them for the right reasons, not just the fact that we decide to change the calendar. “Is there anything wrong with the championship?  Probably not.  It’s close, the battles are good, 90% of the events are good, there are some issues with safety on some events, but you’ll get these issues on every event, issues of safety on every event. “Yes we can look and need to look at other events because new events means new people, new sponsors, new competitors, new opportunities, new ways of doing things.  At the same time we shouldn’t just go because we’ve got the chance to go.” Does M-Sport feel there is a particular new area they would like to go? “I think nothing stands out as somewhere we have to go. I think the places we go, however, should have good car sales for all manufacturers and well grounded facilities nearby or have good reasons to go, they should be logistically sensible. “If you want to go more outside Europe fine, but the events need to be linked in some way so that logistic costs are sensible.  This is not a cheap championship to compete in. “We want to attract more people so we need to make a sensible way of doing that.  But, I would be welcome to go to any of the destination as long as are positive for the championship and we do not have another China situation where we make a big hype, but we don’t go and a lot of people lose money.” 20-30 years ago they used to have a very good system of candidate rallies, when the pre-championship events were run once and maybe a second time to see if they’ve ironed out all their problems but now the WRC Promoter seem to be just happy to jump into new territory. Is that a safe policy? “Certainly I think the events they’re talking about do have candidate events and to be fair they have gone to look to check them out.  My only comment would be, a candidate event is one thing, a candidate event which is at a level potential to run WRC is a different thing. “So you need to have a candidate event, but you need to keep in mind if it isn’t at the level it needs to be it needs to be able to raise up to that level, and if it can’t then you wait another year or not at all. “Everyone’s entitled to a fair opportunity and it shouldn’t be a monopoly that you’re guaranteed a place in the championship.  We should be at a point where events are fighting to have the teams there and they have the backing to be able to fund the teams to come there, to help with the logistical costs and help attract more teams into the sport. “But at the same time the key is making the events positive for the series.  If they can bring something to the series that’s going to increase and do good for it, then by all means,”.  

JARMO LEHTINEN - TOYOTA GAZOO RACING

In what is expected to be one of his last interviews before he leaves as Team Manager of Toyota Gazoo Racing, Jarmo Lehtinen told RallySport Magazi

Jarmo Lehtinen

ne how TGR is thinking about the way they would like the WRC calendar to go for next year. “As long as we have the current format of rallies my personal feeling is that 13 or 14 rallies is the maximum.  14 is financially on the limit logistically, more than that you have to invest much more money in duplicate equipment. “We cannot speak about more rallies and more long haul rallies before we think about format of the rally.  Do we need three day rally, can we do it in a shorter period? “Personally I don’t like that, the DNA of rallies would change too much if we go for sprint rallies. “I know there have been talks that we are concentrating too much around Mediterranean area.  Then comes the question of possible events in Turkey and Croatia.  I would put Poland in the same discussion. “I personally feel that so called old Eastern European countries deserve an event.  There is a really big fan base and rally is quite big sport in that part of the world. “Unfortunately Poland has some problems at the moment, financial and security, and for some reason the organisation hasn’t been really consistent.  I was a competitor at the first edition of Rally Poland, it was really brilliant, then it has gone a little bit downhill.  I didn’t really like what I saw this year. “The area is nice, stages are not too bad. That part of the world deserves a rally, is it then Poland, is it Estonia, maybe Lithuania?  Why not Croatia?  Croatia would be a good place for Italian fans. “I don’t think there should be more asphalt rallies, there is a good balance now.  I still rate Monte Carlo a tarmac rally.  Corsica’s location on the island is not ideal, but has the best tarmac roads in the world for me from a competitor’s point of view, fantastic. “Germany is something completely different and unique, not really a full tarmac rally on my books, but rated as a tarmac.  Catalunya, what a fantastic rally, I really like their tarmac stages, absolutely fantastic. “There are no rallies I would be happy if they did not continue in the WRC. All of them have their good and their bad sides.  It is not down to organisers to get the organisations more consistent, it is down to FIA and Promoter to provide resources so there is some consistency. “They need people clever enough people to respect the local organisers and their special situations.  It is not a black and white easy thing to do, but things are going in a good way.  There have been a lot of positive developments, how the rallies have been this year and last year and I hope that continues.”  

MAREK NAWARECKI - CITROEN RACING

With Citroen Racing’s team principal Yves Matton heavily occupied by media, talking about the team’s current crises about car development and how they expect to handle the driver market for next year, there was a chance before the start of Rallye Deutschland 2017 to talk to the team’s Deputy Principal, Marek Nawarecki.

Marek Nawarecki

We wanted to know his company’s reaction to the relentless quest by the WRC Promoter to broaden the World Rally Championship and introduce new countries into the calendar. We asked what sort of calendar would he, representing Citroen Racing, be happy to see next year. “With the calendar as it stands now we are quite satisfied.  What is important is to include the main car markets.” The problem is that therein lies a conflict; the main markets are the rallies which don’t get held like China and Brazil, and the championship is not going that way. “Yes, but the level of organisation of WRC events must also be maintained.  The level of the organisation of the events needs to be managed on the proper way and of course the events, especially the newcomers, need to reach a good level of organisation of preparing all the facilities on the safety side. “This is difficult work to do for newcomers, for organisers, for new countries.  We believe that new important markets will come in future.  China will be one, obviously very important, but we understand that it takes time.” Are there any particular rallies that you want to leave the championship, that you don’t think should be in the championship at all? “At this moment, no.  There are always things to improve, but (staying in the championship) depends on maintaining the level of the organisation of the championship. “Of course there are the rallies that are more interesting for a car manufacturer or a little bit less.  For example, we have less spectator attendance on the islands (like Corsica and Sardinia) so that was a point which has frequently been raised, but some organisers try to compensate (for inadequacies) in other ways, so I would say we cannot point at any special event we want to leave.” How big should the championship be in terms of numbers of events? “Increased numbers of events increase costs, so we need to be very careful of this.  The number of events we have now (13) is acceptable and is good for everybody, and we think should be maintained.”
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