Private teams competing in the World Rally Championship are calling for a voice in the future direction of a series they feel they provide the backbone for.
There has been growing disquiet among the WRC 2, WRC 3 and Junior WRC competitors that they’re being left in the dark and not consulted about the best way to resume rallying after the ongoing COVID-19 disruption.
Saintéloc rally manager Vincent Ducher says he understands the FIA and WRC Promoter are working with national governments to formulate a plan to get the WRC into as many countries as possible before the end of the season, but he has urged them to consider the financial implications on private teams such as his.
“The resolution of the health crisis is not in the hands of the FIA or the promoters but in the hands of governments,” Ducher told DirtFish.
“It is normal that we have no information since nobody knows exactly what is going to happen. On the other hand, the solutions to support and pass through the economic crisis are in their hands, but we are not consulted.
“We are all in the same boat: promoters, organizers, teams and drivers. We all need each other to survive.
“It should not be forgotten the final customer is the driver and his partners (sponsors). It is him who pays, it is not the FIA, nor the promoter, nor the organizer, nor the team. We are only providers and it is necessary to match supply to demand in period of economic crisis.
“The private teams are not represented on the various commissions at the FIA, there are only the manufacturers.”
Saintéloc, who won the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally in the WRC 3 category with Eric Camilli – also finishing ninth overall and as the leading Rally2 car with its Citroën C3 R5 – fears for the future if more rallies are not running this season.
“There must be a minimum of four or five [rallies].
“Without international rallies, we can do national rallies, but it would be a disaster for our team who works 80% in WRC and ERC (European Rally Championship).
“I have a question for you: is motorsport and WRC organizers possible to live without privateers?”
The common concern between the private teams is the costs involved in competing in the world championship support series.
“The key element is cost reduction,” said Ducher.
“Tires, logistics, technical costs and labor costs must be reduced. In Monte Carlo, we won WRC 3 with Eric using only 33 tires – including one puncture – instead of the 38 we were allowed.”
FIA rally director Yves Matton said he would be happy to communicate more with the teams – just as soon the information was available to the governing body.
“On a day-by-day basis we are trying to have information and except for saying which events are postponed or cancelled we are working on a daily basis with the promoter and everybody to haver events running this year and to try to start the championship as soon as possible,” said Matton.
“I would be really happy to communicate more, but, especially in [the] Federation, [it’s] only valuable when it is the right and accurate information. I cannot communicate things that are not accurate on the reality.”
Matton, who has worked as a private team owner, apologized for the current position.
“We will take into consideration to difficulties of the private teams and we will be reviewing the WRC 2/3 and Junior WRC once we have accurate information on the number of events we are able to have in the second half of the season.
“We know quite well we will have to do something to help them and I’m sorry [not] to give some strong information at the moment.”
In the longer term, Ducher urged the series’ rulemakers to consider radical action to keep the WRC privateers onboard and afloat. He’s even suggested a reduction in the mileage on offer to some of the support series in the style of the WRC Academy 10 years ago.
“Let’s leave the WRC 2 as it is and reduce the Junior WRC and the WRC 3; reduce the entry fee, reduce the mileage on events, limit the numbers of mechanics, reduce tires and run standard fuel. We could save between 30 and 40% in WRC3.
Ducher is in favor of the suggested format shortening of rallies to try to pack more events into the second half of the season, though he also wants that to become a longer-term policy.
“I completely agree with these solutions,” he said. “It is necessary to reduce the travel time of the teams and the kilometers of the events, this is the only way to reduce the costs.
“If we reduce to WRC rallies to 250 kilometres (155 miles) on four days which includes the recce we will save 25%. The cost [of the rallies] must be in line with the budget of our drivers.
“The rules of the rally must be established by sportsmen and economists, not by engineers. If you listen engineer you will get a Formula 1 in rallying with huge cost.
“If manufacturers involved in the WRC spend less money in technology, they can spend more in support categories and media promotion.
“The WRC Promoter has already done a very good job for promoting the championship, manufacturers and organizers. I think they should also increase their job for privateers.”