WRC chief Ciesla delays exit to lead “crisis management”

Head of WRC Promoter delays departure from top job to oversee the championship's COVID-19 response

Oliver Ciesla – Portrait

WRC Promoter managing director Oliver Ciesla has delayed his departure from the role due to coronavirus “crisis management”.

Ciesla has been at the helm since the Red Bull Media House-owned company secured commercial rights for the start of the 2013 World Rally Championship season, and has overseen significant changes such as the 2017 and planned 2022 technical regulations overhauls.

His stay has been extended to July – meaning March’s Rally México will stand as his last world championship rally in attendance within an official capacity.

“Things have changed a little, that’s true,” Ciesla told DirtFish.

“It was never intended that Mexico is my last rally, but in came the virus in between. It was the intention not to be in the office anymore after April, but due to the current situation I agreed to stay until the end of July.

“And by that time I hope that I manage together with my colleagues to fix this year’s calendar and maybe even to propose a big part of next year’s calendar. So there’s still enough to do and I’m still here to do some crisis management.”

Mexico was the third and most recent of the 2020 WRC rounds to go ahead, with the following four rallies all postponed or canceled.

It is likely that at least four of the remaining six after that, starting with August’s Rally Finland, will have to go ahead for Ciesla’s tenure to end with a calendar of events suitable for crowning a new World Rally champion.

The crux of these crisis management discussions is an end-of-May deadline for Finland and the returning Rally New Zealand, which is set to be held on the first weekend of September, to determine whether they will be able to host the WRC while under varying states of lockdown.

“Once we have these decisions, this is a little bit like a domino effect to build this puzzle for the rest of the season,” Ciesla added.

“Then we should be in a better position to find slots for the remaining events. The target is of course to host as many events as possible for the rest of the year.

“But just the data that we have now, whether we are allowed to leave our countries, whether we are allowed to travel into the host countries, all this, is still pending.

“And it makes no sense to do too much speculation or mind games. We need solid information and solid data from World Health Organisation, national health authorities, and only based on this information we can move on.”

Ciesla’s successor is still unknown, with WRC Promoter currently in the process of recruiting his replacement.