There is little doubt that the advent of Coronavirus has dealt a crushing blow to motorsport activity in 2020.
For Hyundai’s WRC team boss Andrea Adamo, the pandemic is yet another sign that a new way of thinking is needed if motorsport is to survive.
“If we don’t react now, or if we don’t act now, we will find a problem.”
Andrea Adamo is not a man known for pulling punches. The Italian has a reputation for not dispensing bullshit and getting straight to the point.
It is an approach that some find jarring, but for others, his approach is a breath of fresh air that has earned him a great deal of respect.
With drivers Thierry Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen, alongside part-timers Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo, Adamo and his crew delivered Hyundai’s first WRC Manufacturer title, following several seasons of playing 2nd fiddle to Volkswagen, M-Sport Ford and Toyota.
However, as costs have grown under the WRC’s current Group R regulations, the 49-year-old Adamo is adamant that more need to be done to secure the future of teams and manufacturers. “I’m working with my colleagues and working internally to try to protect 2021, because 2020 is in danger, but I think 2021 is even more dangerous situation, because I cannot see how I can have the same budget I had this year,” says Adamo.
With rivals Toyota pushing hard with an-already stellar Yaris and M-Sport clipping at their heels in the Ford Fiesta, Adamo knows significant financial input will be necessary to ensure a fair and convincing title push.
Yet as manufacturers analyse budgets amidst the 2nd global financial meltdown in less than 15 years, Adamo is keen to press that only a budget geared for success will win out. “When we ask for the 2021 budget, if we don’t have a proper action to reduce costs, the risk is that maybe someone has no more money to compete. When you ask the board for the money, they ask ‘how much you need to win’, not ‘[how much do you need] to hang around.’ If they are not able to give me the money to win, they will simply tell me, ‘we won’t give you the money.”
It is no secret that while the current set of WRC cars are incredibly fast and impressive to watch, they are also the most expensive machines the category has ever produced. Reductions in costs are expected when the 2022 regulations come to pass; however, the Hyundai man is keen to press that the FIA and WRC Promoter need to be proactive in times of crises. “We have to act, because if we react to the problems, it will be too late,” warns Adamo. “The problem very clearly, which I already tried to explain to the FIA people and the promoter, is that this thing is not a momentary illness – this is a big problem that we will have in the future.”
While costs remain a worry for the future, Adamo is looking forward to the introduction of the new car in 2022. Although delivering a new car will no doubt bring higher initial costs, the reductions in running WRC machinery thereafter is thought to be encouraging. If not, the fallout could be significant for the WRC. “We have to be smart and make rules that will not oblige us to spend the huge amount of money to make these cars. If it is affordable, we will be there and if not, my bosses tell me what to do.”
There is no doubt that the latest Group R machines made many take another look at the WRC, yet despite this, Adamo thinks the current regulations has turned the top-level of rallying away from its true identity and he cites Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport model as the way forward.
“The direction that has been taken with very specific WRC car cannot last forever. It is not in the DNA of rallying and it is not in the DNA of the categories, it is not what is needed. The best example is with what Malcolm has done. He had a market for these cars that sold, so everyone could use them.”
Adamo continues, “If you want to do Formula One [as] rally, you will kill [rallying]. We have seen in the past there has been tried to have a Formula One [in rally] and it has never been a big success.
“Rallies are rallies. Full stop. The DNA is there. You cannot transform rally in Formula One; it will never work.”
For the full version of this interview, as well as conversations with WRC’s Richard Millener, Yves Matton & Colin Clark, and a long talk with Rubens Barrichello, come back for the next issue of World in Motorsport, to be published in July.