Every few years, a conversation starts about whether motorsport should be added to the Olympic Games.
On the one hand, sure. Why not? There’s pretty much every other conceivable sport and game besides hopscotch, so adding motorsport would be just like dotting the I of the word ‘Olympic’, right?
On the other hand, the Olympic Games are about the people involved, and there’s a distinct absence of technology in virtually all of the sports included. Adding motorsport to the mix would risk including a sport in which the person isn’t always the primary deciding factor.
What’s more, motorsport may be a sport by definition, and we’ve seen it – in particular rallying and rallycross – in other multi-sport competitions like the X Games and Nitro World Games in the past, but as a sub-genre it’s diverse enough to warrant its own multi-event competition.
That arrived last year with the inaugural FIA Motorsport Games, which took place at Vallelunga in Italy. The three-day event included a range of motorsport disciplines with drivers representing their national flags rather than the teams behind them – a la the Olympics. Podium finishers were even awarded actual medals too.
The event encompassed Formula 4, GT, and Touring car racing, alongside drifting, karting, and Esports. A wide variety indeed, but for this year’s event (which is set to take place at Paul Ricard in France) there’s more, with R2, R5, and historic rally events, as well as a CrossKart-like rallycross competition dubbed ‘Crosscar’.
Ignoring the fact that this year’s rallying events will be on a sealed surface like the real-world events of the first Motorsport Games, the addition of rallying and rallycross means that the whole event pretty much has every box ticked. And we’re only in year two, so where next? Gravel rallies? S1600 or Supercar rallycross? Rally Raid? Hillclimbs?
The annual event has already shown it has an appetite for expansion, and if October’s edition goes well (or goes at all, given how this year has gone), there’s no limit to the amount activities – namely muddy ones that us at DirtFish are fond of – that could be included in future.
In a world of manufacturer politics and intra-team rivalries, having a straightforward, no pressure motorsport competition infused with a splash of national pride is most welcome.
Last year I was lucky enough to work at the inaugural FIA Motorsport Games, embedded in one of the competing touring car teams. Right away you could tell this was something different. There wasn’t the intensity of a traditional race weekend, yet at the same time carrying a national flag brought with it a clear motivation for competitors. Russia, which topped the medal table, celebrated its overall win just as a victorious nation would at any other major international sporting event.
In terms of crowds, that might be where the inclusion of rallying will bring the most benefit. Rally fans are among the most passionate and knowledgeable, not just in motorsport, but all of sports. The crowds last year weren’t huge – that’s no slight on the event itself, but it was something new, at a track known for rain (we had it inches deep by the end of the day), at the start of November. This year the event will move a week earlier, and to the south of France, putting it in the sunny part of the country that gave us motorsport in the first place.
That sort of makes it the equivalent of hosting the Olympics in Athens – and the last time that happened, it went rather well.