Step forward somebody. Anybody. For the second time of asking, WRC Promoter would like to see a driver becoming part of a process of change in the World Rally Championship.
The plan is to have a driver – or co-driver – sitting on the WRC Commission to help deliver the view from inside the car. The question is: who?
WRC Promoter sporting director Peter Thul explained the situation: “At the start of the Acropolis Rally, they (drivers and co-drivers) came and said: ‘Nothing is happening, what takes you so long?’ We want to help them understand because we want transparent communications. At the end of the day, we need a positive attitude towards our product and we want to be fully transparent.
“I repeatedly offered to the drivers to nominate a spokesperson, this will be done again to get somebody regular to WRC Commission, subject to approval; first as host then, to be decided, with a voting right.
“Gratefully we have Petter and Pernilla [Solberg] helping – Petter is our vice-president of the drivers’ commission. We ask the drivers to nominate, we will accept who it is.
“The ball is now in the field of the drivers.”
Let’s start at the top: Sébastien Ogier. The Frenchman is an eight-time world champion and a man who has seen everything the sport has to offer. And he’s a good talker. Problem is, he’s seen a very good talker’s talk fall on deaf ears.
Ogier explained: “Julien [Ingrassia, former co-driver] was spending a lot of time in the past trying to give some feedback, input, help the sport going forward. Even himself, after many, many years, he started to give up and just felt that all this work for many years was for nothing.
“You know what is my philosophy at the moment: I’m always into the time improvement and free time improvement for myself and my family. I’m not so sure I’m willing to spend any time for that.”
We don't have to be the ones who dictate everything, but our feedback is of course interesting and we have to be part of the discussionSébastien Ogier
Ogier did, however, see the point of such organizations as the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association in Formula 1.
“We discussed something like this as well,” he said. “Of course, the feedback of the drivers themselves must be listened [to] at some point. We don’t have to be the ones who dictate everything, of course not, but our feedback is of course interesting and we have to be part of the discussion.”
Ott Tänak: could he be the one?
“No,” was the Estonian’s response.
He wants to see a change in the sport’s organizational structure before getting more deeply involved.
“Generally the structure and idea how to bring the sport forward needs to have some kind of change, and then from there on for sure we could do all kinds of things,” he said.
“I mean, first there needs to be a reason if somebody like this [driver] comes that it would make some change. If it just puts it in place that DirtFish could make a story about it, I’m not sure it helps much.
Another uber-experienced name is Dani Sordo. Would he do it?
“No,” was the Spaniard’s response.
“The thing is, for me, I don’t like the office,” he expanded. “I don’t like these things: the meetings, emails. I give ideas but I don’t want to go to a meeting: here, there, meeting. I know how we can promote more our sport, but sometimes you say something, then they say: ‘Ah yeah, yeah, yeah…’ And then nothing happens.
“But it’s also fault of the drivers, honestly, because we never say: ‘This? No.’
“I think we can say something to make things a little bit better for sure, but like I say it’s difficult to change all in two days.
“The world is not like before, so we don’t need to do long rallies like before: same stages as before and this, this, this always the same as 20 years ago. The world changed. Before there was not the internet, not live stages.
“We need to adapt rally to the new world, you know.”
Careful Dani Sordo… that sounded like a manifesto. He’s right. But he and all of the drivers are also wrong.
If you want change, you have to be prepared to be part of that change. I can understand Ogier’s thinking: he stepped away from the full-time program to spend more time at home and when he’s at home it’s family time and not WRC Commission meeting notes time.
But it’s a shame. Ogier has the voice and the relevance to deliver a compelling argument on moving the sport and the sporting regulations forwards.
Thierry Neuville is another driver who would be well worthy of consideration. The recent arrival of his son Luca has probably placed even more demands on his time. Esapekka Lappi’s another family man and countryman Kalle Rovanperä is busy drifting.
So, this is leading us to the blindingly obvious: go around the car and open the other door. This is a job for the co-driver.
Neuville’s co-driver Martijn Wydaeghe is vocal, personable and politically pretty astute. Good bet. Same for Jonne Halttunen or Nicolas Gilsoul.
For me, this is a job for a co-driver. And it’s a job that really has to be taken up sooner rather than later.