Last week I read an article on the slow death of the WRC by Gabor Vajda (@Gabor_V) and how to save it. And what I gathered there was only point: better planning of where the WRC stages are placed. But the problems lay way deeper and need solving. Consider what's coming an open letter to Todt.
Problem 1: High costs and exclusively developed parts.
What holds back manufacturers to join the series? High costs or if you avoid them, a lack of competitiveness. And once you developed the car, transferring parts and knowledge to other areas, may it be motorsports or serial car production, is pretty difficult.
So proposal #1: A budget cap. It saves money for the manufacturers, could keep M-Sport Ford and Citroen alive and get more brands to join. I am thinking of something like 70 Million Euros. Sounds like a lot, but VW is said to spend more then 100, and Hyundai will have to get on the same level for 2015. In detail, the budget cap should include all costs for development, transport, employees and testing, while exclude the driver's salary. An enforced budget cap would also allow open and less restrictive rules on the long run.
Proposal #2: fixated car and replacement part costs. We need more private WRC cars. Continuing the trend set in Proposal #1, a set maximum price for a fully functional WRC vehicle would keep the costs down and encourage private teams to join. 400.000€ would be enough to differentiate between the cheaper R5 cars. I also would like to see leasing made available for privateers. 200.000€ per annum for a WRC including testing with the works team and some spare parts. And speaking of spare parts, we don't want manufacturers to make their money there (Indycar and LMP2, I'm looking at you!), so a catalogue with reasonable pricing helps making the beautiful offroad sport affordable.
And finally, proposal #3: Sharing technology. Citroen could use their WRC engine for designing a dominant WTCC car. Take it even further. The junior formula classes like Formula 3 and GP3 are designed to introduce youngsters to F1 like racing. With turbo engines being the future, the smaller classes should assimilate. Why not homologate the 1.6L turbo 4s for all the Formula 3 cars? If this would happen right now, not less than 8 manufacturers (WRC: VW, Hyundai, Ford, Citroen, WTCC: BMW, Lada, Chevrolet/RML, Honda) would have a drivetrain ready. And don't worry, currently the cars are powered by 230hp NA 4 cylinders, while the Turbo 1.6 could make more than 300hp easily. Tuned down engines would also be more reliable and require less maintenance which saves money again. Great for small teams. And in the long run, a new GP2 car will come sooner or later where a version of the same engine with more power output could be used.
Problem 2: The WRC format and events
Rally is one of the most traditional racing types. Any changes should be thought through thoroughly. What the championship doesn't need right now is watered down competition.
Proposal #4: Make it a World and not an altered European championship. Of the thirteen rounds this year, three are outside of the European main land. Three! One should not be able to call it a World Championship. What is missing? At least events in the US, Russia and China. So that's what I suggest to include these three countries, and I already know where exactly for two countries. Russia should be held as winter rally, possibly directly after Sweden, with the Rally's center being St. Petersburg. As for the US, let's take it to California and run some Baja style stages. Fast routes with big jumps (admittedly, not those super sick SCORE Truck jumps), a Finland Rally on sandy US soil.
This measures would give the calendar a more appropriate worldwide ambience and target emerging markets where there are many hatchbacks to be sold.
Proposal #5: Keep the stages closely together. One Day should cover one particular area. TV production becomes easier, and so does the access for fans.
Proposal #6: Unlimited amount of tires. You want more spectacular racing? Give the drivers as many tires as they want to carry and let them go ape. More attack, more action, more watch worthy content.
Problem 3: Media coverage
Here we go. The one problem not solved for years, and not making progress until now despite a change of promoters that now includes media giant Red Bull. There is a championship with 4 mainstream brands, recognizable cars, drifting and crashing and everything, but the public doesn't notice.
Proposal #7: New onboard cameras and drones. Every car should carry a camera on top of the roof, one in the bumper, two in the cabin. But that's not enough for a good TV production, so here is my thought: equip every car with a signal box and get one of those automatic drones to follow it. I mean come on, how hard can it be? It would be rather cheap after initial investment costs, fully automatic and produce tons of great footage. Paired with stationary cams the quality would go through the roof compared to what is being shown now.
Proposal #8: Make it accessible online. The WRC website should feature a central live subsite where an English HD stream, Live timing and live Social Media board can be viewed comfortably by any fan. Don't make full access so hard and an insider job when F1 news can be had from literally every sports/car site.
Proposal #9: Give the TV rights away for nearly free if the broadcasters in return promise at least hour long summaries in the evening for all three rally days. The WRC promoters would make the first cut of the action, and the local station can either just accept it and do some voice over commentary, or add their own content. The profitable charging for TV rights can only come when the people paying for it and the viewers can be convinced of the products quality. Then nobody will want to miss out, and the prices will rise.
All these steps would lay down a solid base for the World Rally Championship. Of course, success can't be granted, and the effects might take some time to become noticeable, but is there another choice? I don't see one.
If you have idea about how to improve the WRC package, leave a comment. Keep in mind that the numbers like car leasing or buying rates are variable – I couldn't find numbers about how much a current WRC car would actually cost.
Also check out my tumblr for some SFW car porn.