8 Aug 2012

Red Bull to be announced as WRC promoter

Autosport have just reported that Red Bull are set to be announced as the new promoter of the World Rally Championship.

The FIA opened a tender to find a new promoter for the sport after the previous promoter's owner went bust.

Red Bull Media was one of three candidates that had been shortlisted by the FIA.  The other two being Eurosport and a South African consortium.

Citro├źn boss Yves Matton said, "When they do something, they do it properly and they don't just want to make a good name with the promotion. If they choose to invest in the World Rally Championship then it's because they want to make a proper job, otherwise they would not even attempt to do it."

I have a confession to make.  The last time I watched a round of the World Rally Championship on TV was in 2004.  The preceding years had made for great viewing.  Iconic cars and teams - Subaru, Mitsubishi,  Ford, Skoda, Peugot and Citroen.  Iconic rallies - Great Britain, Africa, Corsica, Monte Carlo, Sweden, Finland etc.  Iconic drivers - Colin McRae, Richard Burns, Carlos Sainz, Juha Kankunnen, Marcus Gronholm and many others.

The 'old' WRC was magical.  The cars, drivers and rallies were fantastic and epic.  The TV coverage was good enough and I bought Autosport every week to catch up on all the action.

And then some of the magic died.  I can't put my finger on one thing but TV coverage got less and less and started to appear on silly channels such as Dave.  The sport split into two with IRC taking some of the better rallies and drivers.  The manufacturers started to walk away.  I recognised none of the drivers except the ubiquitous and massively dominant S├ębastian Loeb.  They lost Monte Carlo for three years.  they walked away from Kenya.  The entry list was shortened.  Rallies themselves were shortened.  Rallies were trying to emulate racing.

To be fair I think once Richard Burns died I almost challenged WRC to entertain me but it failed so I walked away.

I look at the entry list today and recognise hardly any drivers.  The WRC contests 13 rallies and it's good to see Monte Carlo is back - but I hadn't noticed before today. I look at last years Rally GB (which is in Wales) and note that the cars actually competed on just 222 miles of stages.

Rally should be epic.  2004-2012 WRC is not epic.  Rally needs 1000 miles of stages spread out over four days.  Rally needs daily hour long updates on proper TV in the evenings (something the Isle of Man TT manages very well).  Rally needs spectacular drivers in epic looking cars kicking up dust and gravel and snow and mud.  Rally needs Kenya, Australia, America, Corsica and more.

WRC 2012 has some decent cars.  Citroen, MINI, Ford, Skoda and VW are currently competing.  WRC has some decent rallies and probably has some spectacular drivers.

I want WRC to expand - to get better and bigger and louder and longer.  I want to fall in love with WRC again.

Hopefully Red Bull can put some of that passion back into rallying.  Red Bull can promote motorsports better than almost anyone else.  I hope they pick WRC up by the scruff of it's neck and show the world how great it can be.

I'll be watching developments with interest.  Hopefully in January 2013 I'll turn on my TV to watch Rally Monte Carlo.