Rallying success = big dollars
- 20th December 2006, 11:22am
Meeke’s problem isn’t that he hasn’t got the talent. Far from it, in fact. He was one of the fastest drivers in this year’s Junior World Rally Championship, which uses 1600cc front-wheel drive cars, and many see him as Britain’s next big hope.
The fact is, Meeke has no money, and his chances of ‘making it’ in the WRC are getting slimmer by the day.
His chances of a Red Bull-funded drive with the Kronos Citroen team evaporated this week when the drive when to Swede Daniel Carlsson, and like hundreds of other talented wheelmen, he may soon be left on the scrapheap.
“But to be honest I set myself a target, that I wanted to be in a WRC car in 2007 and unfortunately as in all of these things, it is financial reasons more than most, that I am not in a World Rally Car,” Meeke said this week.
“If I am completely honest, I’m starting to lose a bit of motivation in the whole sport, because if you come flashing a cheque book you are brilliant and exciting and they want you to drive.
"If you come asking what is available without that, you are not so exciting and they don't want you to drive. It is a game where money talks. This time of year, money decides what kind of meetings you have and who you talk to and that decides what car you drive and where you drive it.
"There are drivers out there who have the talent and have the ability and with backers those guys will go on to great things in the FIA World Rally Championship,” he adds. “So, I have no gripes about anything, it is the reality of the sport now-a-days and I am just not fortunate to come from a rich family or a wealthy background or to have wealthy backers behind me."
It’s a situation that has also confronted an endless list of Australian drivers. While our future stars are hell-bent on making it into the ARC, not the WRC, the situation is almost identical. If you can’t bring bucket loads of cash with you, you might as well not bother.
Remember these names: Craig Stallard, Martin Quinn, Wayne Hoy, Adrian Bukmanis, Mark Thompson, David Eadie, Jack Monkhouse, Benni Tirant, etc, etc. All these guys had the talent, made a name for themselves at ARC level, but their careers petered out because of a lack of funds. And there are dozens more we could name, simply by looking back through the results lists over the past 20 years or more.
Unfortunately there’s no easy fix to the problem, particularly in Australia where the corporate dollar isn’t as prevalent as it is in Europe, and where the sport isn’t as popular. Similarly, our national championship is spread out over such a wide area, has so few events and is held over such a long period of the year, that the coverage for major sponsors is seriously questioned. And that’s despite the fact that we receive great television coverage via Network 10.
Like many before him, Meeke’s future is now far from certain. One thing which is certain though, he won't be on the sidelines for any longer than he has to be.
"It is not an option to take a break for a year [and try and sort something for 2008]. If you stand back at home you are yesterday's news very quickly," he said. "This whole thing of having to bring in a budget has just tired me out a bit though.
"I have been chasing my dream for four or five years now within the World Rally Championship and if I had been running a successful business and been a multi-millionaire or had the budget to bring to world rally teams, it would be a different story. Unfortunately I am not wealthy. I can drive a car, but it is up to people's opinions whether or not that is good enough to get me into a WRC car or not."
To the detriment of the sport of rallying, that’s a situation that isn’t likely to improve anytime in the near future.
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