Malcolm Wilson has urged the FIA to consider the use of a non-hybrid Rally1 car on national and regional rallies in an effort to maintain M-Sport’s presence in the World Rally Championship.
From the outset of Rally1 last season, Wilson was given assurances he would be able to sell Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 cars to private drivers. His business case to continue at rallying’s highest level was built partly on that commercial activity. Since last year he’s sold one car.
“It’s not enough,” said Wilson. “We need to be selling around 10 cars each year to make this work. Right now, nothing can be taken for granted next season.”
Wilson – along with the other WRC manufacturers – met with FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem at Acropolis Rally Greece earlier this month. He outlined the issues to Ben Sulayem and is hoping for swift action in the wake of the meetings.
“Mohammed won seven of his Middle East [Rally Championship] titles with us,” said Wilson. “I explained to him that he was using, essentially, a Rally1 car. He won those championships in the premium class car – the car we were running at the top of the WRC.
“Why can’t we do that now?
“OK, we need to cut the costs of these cars, but I really don’t believe the cost is the issue with these Rally1 cars – I think it’s the level of organization which has to go into national events to run them.
“With the hybrid, they need specific rules and regulations, that’s complicated and sometimes too complicated for some rallies. If the drivers don’t know where they can run the cars, there’s no incentive for them to buy them.”
Wilson won support from other stakeholders with his suggestion of a non-hybrid solution.
“We could easily run a non-hybrid Rally1 car,” he said. “We take the hybrid out, replace it with some ballast and you have a regular car which can run under normal rules.
“I think this would encourage drivers and rallies to use these cars.”
Ben Sulayem has tasked FIA rally director Andrew Wheatley with looking into the use of Rally1 cars outside of WRC and told DirtFish he will be looking at the cost side.
“We are working on it,” Ben Sulayem said. “There’s not just one solution. Bringing the costs down is very important, but also allowing these cars into other championships is something that we have to look into and make a decision on.”
Wilson concluded: “Something has to change. The desire is as strong as ever, but the case is simple: we sell cars, we stay here.
“It’s good to have the support of the president and it was really good to see him in Athens, it sent out a strong message and we want to see more of him.”