“WRC: Four or Five Events Possible – Matton”

The FIA’s Rally Director, Yves Matton, believes four-to-five more events will be necessary to validate the World Rally Championship this season.

Yet as the year reaches its halfway point, the task of finding replacement rallies is becoming a trying task, as he tells World in Motorsport.

“It’s not like in racing. We are not able to make rallying without any public,” says Yves Matton firmly.

At one time the Team Principal of Citroën’s post-Sébastien Loeb era, the 52-year-old became the FIA’s Rally director at the beginning of 2018 and although rallying has endured its fair share of difficulties over the past two decades, it is unlikely that Matton has experienced anything quite like this.

With event after event falling due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Matton and his team at the FIA, in conjunction with WRC Promoter are desperately attempting to scramble a revised calendar.

As it stands, the WRC has completed three events before the pandemic took hold – Monte Carlo, Sweden and Mexico – but nothing since March. However, unlike circuit racing events, which take place in enclosed spaces, the very nature of rallying means that it is more susceptible to disruption due to the virus.

On the other hand, the precarious nature of this arm of motorsport means public support is necessary if it is to continue at pre-COVID-19 levels, as Matton reveals. “For sure, we are highly linked to governments. The constraints are different. It is impossible to say that we could have some events without any public – this is not in the DNA of rallying, because you are going close to the people.

“We are going into their villages, you are going on their roads, so you cannot say to the people that they are not allowed to be there and it [the access] is more difficult to control also.”

Matton reveals that a report detailing the restart of international rallying will be released this month; however, he is in no way downplaying the hugely significant task ahead. “There is a lot of things that we are able to do, and I saw some processes that some organisers issued – I can give you one example; there is Rally Roma [ERC], which runs in July. They have issued a quite precise process to run an event that is controlled to public social distancing and all those things to be able to restart competition at rally level.

“What I can say based on the huge work that the FIA has done for the restart of competition in racing, the huge work they have done for Formula One starting in July, we are working also on a guidance to restart competition at the rally level.”

So far this season, WRC events in Portugal, Kenya, Finland, New Zealand and Great Britain have already been abandoned, with Germany and Japan expected to announce further cancellations shortly. All this in addition to the already cancelled Rally Chile, which was binned late last year, with organisers citing civil unrest in the South American country as a reason for not running the rally.

With so many events having fallen by the wayside, there are now to plans to co-opt some European Rally Championship events – such as Rally Ypres and Rally Liepaja – into the WRC, in order to bolster the 2020 calendar and provide a suitable number of events to validate the season. “We consider that we could have a level number of events to make a title with the right level of value, in a quite specific year,” he says.

Matton concludes, “With the information we have today, we are confident to have four and five events between now and the end of the year and we consider that if we are able to run five events with the three events we ran at the start of the year, we would have had a [representative] level of competition.”

With three rounds of the 2020 World Rally Championship, Sebastien Ogier leads with 62 points, ahead of Toyota teammate, Elfyn Evans (54 points), with Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville next up with 42 points.

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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.

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© Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool
© Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

“WRC: Rallying Needs to Act, Not React If It Wants to Survive – Adamo”

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.”

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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.

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Andrea Adamo is seen on day 4 duringthe World Rally Championship Monte-Carlo in Gap, France on January 26, 2020 // Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool // AP-22WWTTBA11W11 // Usage for editorial use only //