M-Sport boss wants WRC format flexibility amid crisis

Should WRC rallies' strict structures be relaxed to help complete a 2020 calendar?

Esapekka Lappi M-Sport Ford WRC Rally Mexico 2020

With three rounds of the World Rally Championship already postponed and a fourth delay coming imminently, a 10-round second half of the season means the logistical equivalent of a square peg and a round hole.

M-Sport Ford team principal Richard Millener believes the time has come for the WRC Promoter to demonstrate flexibility in its approach to events in an effort to accommodate as many rallies as possible if and when the WRC season resumes.

Millener told DirtFish: “What we have to see now is the promoter’s ability to do things differently.”

The WRC has been fixed in a three (and a half)-day format since the mid-1990s. This is the way the promoter likes the events, it offers a television audience diarized viewing: they know if it’s Thursday night, it’s going to be a ceremonial start and, most likely a superspecial. And, at 18 minutes past one local time on a Sunday, they know it’s powerstage time.

Millener says that rulebook needs to be rewritten, if not torn up, for the remainder of 2020.

“There’s this opportunity to do things differently for the rest of the season,” he added.

“We all know it’s going to be very difficult logistically to get all of those events in if we give them their usual format and space between the events.

“So, let’s be a thinking a bit more out of the box; a bit more leftfield.

“This is the perfect chance to bring some back-to-back events, let’s have some two-day rallies and maybe, here’s some radical thinking, why not have two rallies in one place on consecutive weekends?

“If the infrastructure’s in there, why not start thinking about these kind of things?

“What is it they say? Out of adversity comes opportunity… we have an opportunity to do things differently here and we should take it. But to take it we need to be putting contingency plans together right now.

“We have to look at the positive side of this thing now and take a more extreme look at what can be done to get the rest of the season working.”

On the subject of the Safari Rally, CEO Phineas Kimathi has been reported in Kenya as saying a decision will come in the next fortnight.

Sports cabinet secretary Amina Mohamed confirmed to Kenyan television station NTV that postponement was an option, saying: “We are still discussing the possible postponement of the Safari Rally and when we have new dates, then we shall agree the way forward.”