“It’s a chance to take the WRC to a new au­di­ence”

Motor Sport News - - Rally News -

If any other round of the World Rally Cham­pi­onship re­quired you to drive 300 miles to at­tend a cer­e­mo­nial start and a cou­ple of the Thurs­day night stages, there would be up­roar. It wouldn’t hap­pen. It hap­pens ev­ery year on the Monte Carlo Rally. And no­body ever ques­tions it. And nor should they.

In all hon­esty, the trip south from Gap to Monaco is about more than a cer­e­mo­nial start, it’s about the launch of the World Rally Cham­pi­onship sea­son. There are those who growl about what­ever-list celebri­ties de­scend­ing on the prin­ci­pal­ity to fawn over our sport, a sport about which they know noth­ing.

What’s the point, they will ask, of su­per­star French foot­baller Jean-pierre Papin or for­mer world num­ber one ten­nis player Caro­line Woz­ni­acki get­ting into a World Rally Car and do­ing donuts?

The point is pro­file. And the chance to take the sport to an­other level and an­other au­di­ence. Woz­ni­acki was in town cour­tesy of her first round exit from the Aus­tralian Open, but her mood was bright­ened con­sid­er­ably af­ter any num­ber of 360s with world cham­pion Se­bastien Ogier.

“That was in­cred­i­ble,” she said when she got out of the car. “It just didn’t make any sense what he was do­ing! Un­be­liev­able.”

That’s worth some­thing to us. When she’s back on tour, she’ll spread our word. How can that be a bad thing?

The WRC can’t af­ford to be ei­ther nar­row­minded or proud when it comes to this kind of thing. Yes, we’re on the up th­ese days, but the cham­pi­onship still has a very long way to go be­fore it gets back to the glory days and we’ll take lip ser­vice from celebs of any stand­ing.

Why am I de­fend­ing the cham­pi­onship launch? I don’t know. It was a great, well-run and wor­thy in­tro­duc­tion to an­other fan­tas­tic Monte Carlo Rally.

And it was well worth the jour­ney south. Then north. Then south.

The event’s true value came across loud and clear talk­ing to one of the many Monaco lo­cals hang­ing out in Casino Square last week: Al­lan Mcnish.

An eight-day trip to Amer­ica pre­cluded any watch­ing in the moun­tains, but the Scot wasn’t go­ing to miss out on the chance of some doorstep fever.

“Like the grand prix, this event is very im­por­tant around here,” he says. “Lo­cal peo­ple like to get in­volved. When I came in, one of the ladies or­gan­is­ing things, she’s one of the mums from school – our daugh­ter goes to school with her son. This isn’t just the elite of mo­tor­sport, it’s a real com­mu­nity thing. I’ve got two chil­dren, a seven and a 10-year-old. When they come out of school and they come and have a look around, they get that smell, the vibe and a wee bit on in­spi­ra­tion and at­mos­phere. Then they’ll go home and watch it on tele­vi­sion and that gives them that first view of mo­tor­sport. That’s what got you and me hooked.”

Not to men­tion Woz­ni­acki and Papin.


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