Sainz’s recipe for making the WRC great again

Two-time world champion competed during peak levels of WRC interest - and reckons Group A formula was key to success

Lombard Rac Rally Harrogate (GBR) 20-24 11 1988

Between dominating Dakar and watching his son winning Formula 1 races with Ferrari, Carlos Sainz doesn’t have as much time to follow the World Rally Championship as he once did. But he still has a fascinating perspective on what can make the WRC great again.

Sainz remains – by some distance – the most experienced factory driver in the history of the WRC (188 starts versus 159 for Jari-Matti Latvala). He won two championships and 26 rallies. And he competed through a period when support and media interest in world rallying was its peak.

What does he think it would take to make the WRC great again? Typically, there’s no throwaway line. Instead, there’s a considered response and a point very well made.

“For me,” Sainz told DirtFish, “the best moment of WRC was when we have the Group A moment. This was the time when we had all the national championships using the same car as the World Rally Championship.

Rally Sanremo San Remo (ITA) 11-13 10 1993

Three-time Italian champion Franco Cunico won the WRC Sanremo Rally in 1993

“We were coming to all the countries and the local guys can put pressure in the factory teams and give surprises. It was a good moment to have plenty of cars in the national championship joining the WRC; you could see the young people jump in those cars early and they were sending good messages and measuring [themselves] against the top drivers.

“For me, that’s a good formula to have the same car available [in domestic series] as you run in the WRC. Remember in the UK, there was Mark Higgins and Gwyndaf Evans and then you go to Italy and it’s Franco Cunico, to France and there are more cars at the same level.”

There are those in the world championship who feel the premier rally cars on the planet should be kept exclusively for the WRC’s top tier – the obvious parallel being that you don’t see Formula 1 cars in national championships.

The counter to that sits at the heart of Sainz’s argument: allow top cars to compete domestically and you all-but guarantee a stronger field (with national heroes generating increased local media interest) at the top of a WRC entry list.