M-Sport Ford team principal Richard Millener has questioned next week’s radical final-day route for the Ypres Rally – a day that involves a 180-mile road section and two tire fitting zones.
Belgium’s first World Rally Championship round will take in action from its two hardcore motorsport regions: Ypres itself and Spa-Francorchamps.
But such an ambitious route means the first car leaves parc ferme at 0450 local time on Sunday morning and the competitive element comprises just 11% of the route for Sunday August 15.
The organizer has established a tire fitting zone ahead of the first stage of the final day and another one ahead of the seven-mile powerstage.
Asked for his thoughts on the Ypres Sunday, Millener told DirtFish: “I fully appreciate we need to go to these new places and I think the powerstage in Spa will be really interesting and great to watch – going to a place like that it’s got a lot of enthusiastic supporters.
There are movement costs and taking vehicles and trucks just to cover this tire fitting zone when ultimately rallying is about driving in different conditionsRichard Millener
“But the two tire fitting zones out there means we’re going to have to keep a lot of people on site in Spa to deal with that.
“We are fitting new tires for the powerstage, but we’re always trying to talk about reducing the number of tires we use.
“There are movement costs and taking vehicles and trucks just to cover this tire fitting zone when ultimately rallying is about driving in different conditions.
“We do it on other rallies, for example in Monte Carlo we need to do the stages on Saturday and then drive all the way to Monte Carlo, which is a big road section.
“Let’s see. If there’s torrential rain, then OK I understand it from the safety side – but equally we all have weather forecasters and we all have to make our own decisions. I feel there’s a compromise somewhere here that we could have found.”
Rally manager Alain Penasse said: “We know the weather can change rapidly in the Francorchamps area. What we’re talking about is the fuel for two 290-kilometer journeys…”
The feeling was the same from FIA rally director Yves Matton, who added: “I spoke to the organizer about this. At one moment we need to be pragmatic and sending some tires to the tire zone, in comparison to the cost of doing one event as a manufacturer, is not a huge investment.
“The second thing, we know Spa-Francorchamps – as any fans of Formula 1 will tell you – is quite specific in terms of weather conditions and you could have some unpredictable conditions during the last stage and that was the thinking behind this.”