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State of the FIA ​​World Championships: flash in the pan or wildfire

State of the FIA ​​World Championships
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I I would like to publicly address the FIA ​​and its President Jean Thank you Todt for your support. ”Stéphane Ratel read the bumpy sentence in the press room on the Spa Francorchamps track with an expression on his face as if he had to choke down a handful of spiders. The listeners were all insiders on July 27, 2012, and of course they knew immediately: The statement was a mockery, in truth there had been a lot of rattle between GT promoter Stéphane Ratel and FIA boss Jean Todt.

Ratel's annual press conference in Spa has always been a place of dramatic and toxic divorce. In 2005 Ratel announced at the same point that its GT championship would be leaving the popular Super Racing Weekends, which took place together with Marcello Lotti's TW World Championship. Ratel finally wanted his own World Cup, which FIA President Max Mosley gave him at the end of his term in office in 2009. After only three years Ratel threw the World Cup begging in Spa more or less voluntarily - although he had previously fought like a lion for this title for years.

Why did the GT World Championship fail

One less World Championship in this world, which automatically raises the question of why the GT World Championship failed and whether the other World Championships could have a similar fate? In fact, the failure of the top GT class does not seem to be a singular event, but rather symptomatic of the situation at the FIA ​​World Championships. The FIA ​​motorsport authority has awarded five world-class ratings in the various motorsport disciplines: Formula 1, rally, GT racing and touring cars. Since this year, there has also been the title for the endurance world championship, a cooperation with the Le Mans organizer ACO.
Apart from Formula 1 promoter Bernie Ecclestone, nobody has reason to laugh at the moment. The only global stage of motorsport is happily flourishing, it is the only constant in the concert of the world championships. No wonder, with annual revenues of $ 579 million from the GP organizers and those governments that want to afford a state GP. Formula 1 is big business, and little Bernie is still the greatest.
The rest of the shooting festival is groaning audibly. Part of the problems is due to the economic instability: The euro is crumbling, the old continent is shaking, which in turn is the future markets of theInfluenced automotive industry in Asia and America. And when the auto industry coughs, then motorsport has pneumonia.
Ratel puts the misery that all World Cup promoters are facing right now in a nutshell: “The general economic environment has deteriorated so much that we can no longer meet our financial obligations to the world motor sports authority FIA. ”The Frenchman indirectly blames the FIA ​​for the buck: The high fees can no longer be earned in the current economic climate - and the established business model of the company bursts World Championships.
Ratel has announced the continuation of the World Championship without a World Championship title in Spa. Not a very original approach to solving the acute problems - all the audience agreed on that. For years Ratel dictated his credo to journalists in their notepads: “The World Cup status will solve all our problems: Only with the FIA ​​title can we find sponsors and earn money with TV coverage.” In three years none of this has come true - No main sponsor, insufficient presence on television and therefore no sponsors. If the market is regulated by supply and demand, Ratel would have had to close his World Cup over a year ago when he began to artificially keep teams alive. By then the market laws were no longer in force.

What role does GT racing have at the FIA?

What happens to the GT World Championship in the future is not in Ratel's hands , even if he wanted to give that impression at the press conference. What matters is what the FIA ​​does. So far there has only been the usual blah blah from the FIA ​​headquarters: “GT racing is of central importance to the FIA.” And: “We will analyze and reassess the situation.”
When the FIA ​​Ratel and its new one GT Sprint Series doesn't want to stumble in the back, then it keeps still and doesn't do anything. She could also cobble together the vacant title for the World Endurance Championship, where the GT teams have been competing for a less lucrative World Cup so far. And finally, new promoters could be found who make the FIA ​​an offer to host the GT World Championship. That wouldn't be good for Ratel, but more on that later.
Nonetheless, the Frenchman clearly identified two central problems: While the income for the World Cup promoters has steadily declined in recent years, the expenses - in other words, the fees for them FIA - high. And the television topic is on fire at all world championships. A World Cup title no longer means that the television broadcasters pay for the broadcasting rights. The television market is flooded with sports, so you have to pay if you want to be seen. And this is where the gap between income and expenditure finally goes apart.
This becomes clear when looking at the other world championships: The diabolical mix of fallingAll world championships are plagued by income, rising costs for marketing and TV, and high FIA fees. The flash in the pan of the failure of the GT World Championship could quickly turn into a wildfire. The news from the rally front is no less worrying: With Citroën and Ford, two manufacturers are shaking worryingly, although the powerful Volkswagen group has only just decided to enter the World Rally Championship. Perhaps the opponents there are trembling because of the power of the VW Group?
The World Rally Championship needs a spiral of costs on the competitive side as much as a hole in the head. In addition, the World Cup promoter North One slipped into bankruptcy last year, which meant that the FIA ​​now has to host the World Cup itself. It has neither the infrastructure nor the expertise to do this. The FIA's business model is milking World Cup cows, not raising and caring for them. In the middle of the chaos, the main sponsor Nokia also jumped out. A television contract that ensures nationwide reporting is missing. The FIA ​​has to generate revenue through the world championships to maintain its inflated apparatus. Instead, the FIA ​​misses out on revenues of 2.5 million euros per year in the rally sector.

The World Touring Car Championship is doing best in comparison. World Cup promoter Marcello Lotti only recently had to cope with Chevrolet's exit. But firstly, Chevrolet wanted to quit at the end of 2013 anyway, and secondly, Lotti pulled a new fish out of the manufacturer's pond with Honda. Ford wants to expand its involvement, and Seat is developing a new car that should be ready in May 2013. The fact that Lada will also return next year arouses little admiration, but a manufacturer is a manufacturer.
Lotti is also hopeful that the Chevy works team RML could land a new customer. Ray Mallock is in close contact with Nissan. And where Honda is, Toyota is usually not far away either - Lotti is also following this storyline intensely. The bustling Italian also has dreams, such as convincing BMW to continue, even if sparrows from Munich whistle, that is not on the program. Overall, the World Touring Car Championship is not doing so badly: Lotti has cars and manufacturers and teams. It could be more, but at least.
Lotti also has a pound that no one else has: TV. Because the Italian acts as General Manager of the World Touring Car Championship and the Intercontinental Rally Challenge IRC - on behalf of Eurosport Events. Basically, Eurosport is the promoter of these two championships. The pan-European sports channel has meanwhile also become an international heavyweight: the expansion into Asian free TV was successful, and the French are marketing their television rights worldwide. An example: only 35 percent of all TV viewers watch the TW-WM on Eurosport - the rest come overworldwide rights deals. As a World Cup promoter, Eurosport is also providing television for the racing series.
This puts the French and their general manager Marcello Lotti in a strong position for the future: The contract extension with the FIA ​​for holding the World Touring Car Championship is as good as by. The IRC becomes the European Rally Championship - and also remains with Eurosport. So it stands to reason that the French should also submit an offer as a promoter for the World Rally Championship. We remember: The French TV aces helped the FIA ​​out of a jam at the start of the season, the Monte Carlo Rally. And who knows: Eurosport might even make an offer for the continuation of the GT World Championship, so to speak piggybacking with the TW World Championship - which would cut costs in half in one fell swoop. And Eurosport Events still holds the naming rights to the Super Racing Weekends ...
This scenario would have only advantages for the FIA. You don't have to worry about anything and can collect your fees. The manufacturers would also have nothing to complain about, because Eurosport would ensure the basic TV supply for the World Championships. Without this basic service, it is almost impossible to negotiate lucrative TV deals. Stéphane Ratel ran from pillar to post for three years in order to find out broadcasting minutes for each individual European country in separate negotiations - a Sisyphean work that leads to a TV patchwork quilt about which manufacturers, teams and sponsors only constantly complain.
Eurosport has proven to be a reliable partner of the FIA ​​over the past few years. Since the introduction of the international predecessor series ETCC - that is, since 2001 - the TW-WM has been delivering an estimated three million euros per year to the FIA. GT promoter Ratel has only paid a reduced rate since last year, supposedly half. With a Eurosport deal, the FIA ​​would kill several birds with one swap.
Lotti reacts to speculations like this with amusement, which reveal slight wrinkles at the corner of his mouth: He's smiling, but more to himself than to someone. Lotti doesn't want to break china, not yet. These are difficult times and the situation is grave. Instead, a clean political statement: “The cooperation with the FIA ​​is characterized by trust and mutual support.”
We know that from somewhere?


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