WRC drivers call for more compact CER route

Competitors feel next year's event would benefit from being shorter in terms of road miles

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Leading World Rally Championship drivers have called for a more compact route to be considered for next year’s Central European Rally.

Organized for the first time this year, CER was a new concept in the WRC with three different countries – Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic – clubbing together to host the one event.

The service park was based in Passau, Germany but the rally started in Prague before the Czech Republic hosted stages on Thursday and Friday.

Saturday and Sunday’s action straddled the German and Austrian borders with tests in each country on each day.

While exciting and innovative, this format did mean over 850 road miles were covered for just 190 miles of stages – meaning just 22.4% of the rally route was competitive. This year’s Rally México, for example, boasted a competitive mileage of 49.2%.

Toyota driver Elfyn Evans was one of the leading drivers calling for a more compact route in 2024.

“I think the format is pretty disastrous, to be honest,” Evans told DirtFish.


“From a competitor’s point of view, to have three days’ recce, working on like less than six hours sleep most nights, the whole up and down to Prague thing, it’s not really ideal in my view. It’s basically like everything that competitors think is wrong with the championship is highlighted fully in this rally.

“It should be more compact, more easy to follow, and we’re just going further afield, more spread out stages, longer days, less kilometers. The challenge of the stages, of course they were difficult, but that’s part of rallying.

“We can live with that. But this format of traipsing up and down three countries is a bit unnecessary.”

Evans’ team-mate Sébastien Ogier feels the itinerary needs to be “more cleverly done”, raising the environmental impact of traveling across borders every day.


“If I’m honest, I expected more people in Prague. It was nothing crazy, it was a bit strange,” Ogier told DirtFish.

“Maybe the timing – Thursday afternoon, because Czech is definitely a rally fan country, and it was surprisingly not so crowded, honestly. So doing all these kilometers for that felt a bit disappointing, if I’m honest. But anyway, I think the fan would follow and it’s not that far from Prague, they would come.

“We still need to optimize the route, it cannot be that we carry on doing this amount of road section. It doesn’t fit to what we need to achieve, the target of being more eco-responsible and things like this.

“It has to be more cleverly done.”

Evans agreed.

“I can understand that we need to have things that are accessible for people, but I don’t think you have to go to three separate countries to do that,” he said.

“I think that most people who came to spectate didn’t just go because the stage was on their doorstep, they came and they followed the rally.

“So you have all the rally, doing miles and miles and miles, following everybody around all weekend. And I don’t think in today’s climate it’s the right thing to do.”

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Rally winner Thierry Neuville, however, said he is “not against driving a lot, having lots of road sections if we see the amount of spectators we have seen this weekend”.

The Hyundai driver continued: “The enthusiasm of the spectators was great, the support, it was just a great, spectacular show this weekend so I don’t mind to do a lot of mileage if it’s rewarded.

“It was incredible to see so many spectators around cheering for all the drivers, enjoying the show we were delivering this weekend. I was enjoying that, to have that atmosphere again like we had five years back.”

Neuville did highlight the need for more anti-cuts if the rain is due to arrive though, and felt that some sections of stage were a bit dangerous.

“Friday was a bit dangerous here and there,” he said. “Some really fast sections, some sections we need to review also for next year, maybe to take them out, especially when the weather is like this.”

M-Sport’s Ott Tänak felt more needed to be done on the promotion side.

“The race itself or the stages like this, definitely demanding,” he said.

“Czech was quite different compared to Austria and Germany, so altogether I would say the weather gave us a bit of extra spice so it made it demanding, so nothing easy there.

“It’s everything you need to be a WRC event, I would just say the organizer and the promoter’s job definitely could be much better, to be honest. The fans were there, the people were there, everything was there to make it a great event so it just needs a bit of extra effort to make the show behind as well.”


Asked what specifically needed to be done better, Tänak said: “Event start ceremony, we are in the old town in Prague. To have a bit of, let’s say, show for the people and also with the final podium, it’s easy to create something much bigger.”

Newly crowned two-time world champion co-driver Jonne Halttunen meanwhile echoed the thoughts of his Toyota colleague Evans that the days were a bit too long.

“Actually this event is in a way a bit extreme, and to be honest maybe a bit too extreme because I was calculating for five nights I slept like 20 hours, and I don’t know if it’s safe in a way,” Halttunen said.

“Because we do such long days and our hotel is not in Passau it takes a while to get there and a while to get back, and to work with the notes, check the videos, the days are extremely long.

“I already said on Thursday ‘I feel like I’ve been at this rally for a week already’, and the rally’s just starting. It’s a nice way to finish in second place after such a demanding event.”

Evans added: “I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have, hands-down, only six hours of sleep, because I think that’s always also been part of rallying. But to do it just because you’re driving 180km road sections is mental.

“It’s not good for anybody – it’s not easy to follow, it’s boring that the thing starts at, I don’t know, like 7.30am in the morning and it’s running until… nobody’s got the attention span to follow that all day.

“Even the spectators watching. By the time they then get out of the stage, there’s no chance to then get a proper dinner or anything.

“So if we think about making the sport more friendly for everybody, it’s more stage mileage, less road mileage is the key thing.”

These concerns aren’t lost on the organizer of Central European Rally, which is already considering a shorter route for next year’s event.

But Michael Kramp, national press officer for the rally, told DirtFish the run from Prague to Passau and back was worthwhile: “You’ve been to Prague?” he asked.

“To be honest, I think it was worth it. I was in the car three and a half hours on the way to Prague and four and a half hours back. But nevertheless, I think it was worth it. It’s beautiful there and the the Czech president was there, a lot of politicians were there.”

Kramp added that the first iteration of the event had “definitely” been a success.

“The amount of spectators was more than we expected, so that’s great and I guess what I heard from you from your colleagues when they come in, when they were at the stages, they bring a good mood to us here and say the spectators were happy and most of the journalists saw a good rally.”