D he World Rally Championship has been taking place in recent years Lost attractiveness. After numerous exits, Ford and Citroen are only two major manufacturers fighting for the rally crown. The only remaining star on the scene is Sebastien Loeb. With the withdrawal of the Monte Carlo Rally, the series lost another highlight.
Problems with presentation and marketing
Now everything should finally get better. 'We cannot be satisfied with the current situation,' said the new FIA President in his opening speech for the 2010 WRC season on Tuesday (February 2nd) in Paris. 'We have 13 rallies in the championship. The small number of manufacturers needs to be addressed and we need to ensure that we generate more interest in rallying in the next few years.'
The economic crisis that most recently Suzuki and Subaru had forced to exit, the Frenchman does not accept as the only excuse. 'When times are bad, you have to put even more effort into marketing. We now have a new promoter who gives us important input.'
Signs of the upswing
Neil Duncanson, CEO of the WRC marketer ISC, should bring the World Rally Championship economically into safe waters. The new promoter wants to bring about an upswing in a short time: 'We have gone through a tough time in the last 18 months. But there are signs of recovery again: Jean Todt was elected as the new president, there is now a new promoter and us have new stars, such as Kimi Räikkönen and Ken Block from America. '
The Briton also has hope in new venues. 'We're coming to Istanbul for the Turkey Rally, driving the New Zealand Rally in Auckand and bringing the France Rally to mainland France, practically in Sebastien Loeb's garden.' Duncinson also highlighted the new SWRC championship as an important step. 'It is based on the S2000 and hopefully prepares us well for the new regulations, which will come into force in 2011 and which will make entry into the WRC much cheaper.' The new calendar for 2011, which will contain more than the 13 events from the current season, should also be published this month.
Start of a new rally era
Duncanson speaks of the 'start of a new era' in rallying. They also want completely new onesAddressing target groups: 'Without scaring off the older fans, the sport must become more attractive for the younger generation. That means that we all have to use new media.' It is planned that an official WRC computer game and a WRC iPod application will be launched this year and that the WRC website will be revised. They also want to create new structures to facilitate active entry into rallying.
Investments are also to be made in TV broadcasting. 'In 2011, the World Rally Championship will be produced in high definition,' the promoter announced. In addition, the transmission standard is to be improved. Duncanson promised that the World Cup events would be reported live on television again. German rally fans may find these prospects utopian. In 2010, the audience in this country will have to look completely into the tube. Still no free TV channel has been found to provide up-to-date information about the World Cup rallies in the coming season.
Todt optimistic about the rally future
Together with the FIA, however, the problems should be resolved quickly. 'As everyone knows, rallying still has a very important role in my heart,' said FIA President Todt. 'I am sure that we will have a great championship in 2010 and I am even more optimistic about the future of rallying. I wish Neil the best of luck. He has my support and the commitment of all FIA members to help achieve our goals. '