RALLY SWE­DEN’S FU­TURE IN DOUBT

Show­piece event faces bat­tle over fund­ing

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By David Evans

Rally Swe­den bosses could be on the verge of quit­ting the world cham­pi­onship in a row over a hike in fees payable to WRC Pro­moter.

Glen Ols­son, boss of the WRC’S only snow round, told Mo­tor­sport News the terms on of­fer from the pro­moter are cur­rently un­work­able for the Karl­stad­based event, which has been part of the World Rally Cham­pi­onship since its in­cep­tion back in 1973. And it’s both the long and short­term fu­ture for the WRC’S win­ter rally that hangs in the bal­ance this week, with warm weather im­pact­ing and still pos­si­bly forc­ing the can­cel­la­tion of Rally Swe­den ( see side­bar).

Ols­son said: “We’re in dis­cus­sions with the pro­moter over the is­sue of money. We are sup­posed to pay more and we haven’t been able to reach agree­ment. That’s where we are at the mo­ment.

“It’s all about get­ting a fair deal or a deal that we can live with. We need a con­tract which gives us enough rights to make a busi­ness out of it. If we can’t get that then I don’t be­lieve that we can con­tinue [to run Rally Swe­den].

“We had quite a strug­gle to clear up the fi­nan­cial past for this event. When I first started, the rally was about bank­rupt and we had to work out the fi­nance all over again. Since then we have worked hard to raise the rev­enue and since we are start­ing to get things in or­der, we would like to make a lit­tle money out of this – not just give it all to WRC Pro­moter and the FIA. A fair deal is all we are ask­ing for.”

Rally Swe­den was one of the found­ing events in the WRC and has been ever-present on the cal­en­dar since 2010, hav­ing been ro­tated with Nor­way for a sin­gle sea­son in 2009.

It has, how­ever, been in a pre­car­i­ous fi­nan­cial po­si­tion, run­ning with­out a ma­jor spon­sor for sev­eral years.

Swe­den has man­aged to off­set some of its costs by shar­ing its WRC round with Nor­way. As has be­come tra­di­tion in re­cent sea­sons, the open­ing day of com­pe­ti­tion this week will take place across the bor­der, cour­tesy of an on­go­ing work­ing re­la­tion­ship which brings world cham­pi­onship ral­ly­ing to two coun­tries which couldn’t af­ford to do it on their own.

“We’re not like Rally GB,” said Ols­son. “We don’t have £1.5 mil­lion com­ing from a govern­ment like Wales. I would like a rea­son­able level of un­der­stand­ing from the pro­moter about our po­si­tion. I be­lieve this event adds value to the cham­pi­onship and it helps to build the cham­pi­onship. I hope we can be in a po­si­tion to find agree­ment, but we’re in two

dif­fer­ent worlds. We’re on our own here and we can’t just keep pour­ing money in.”

There have been ru­mours of a pos­si­ble ri­val win­ter event com­ing onto the cal­en­dar from Canada and Ja­pan, but WRC Pro­moter’s Oliver Ciesla de­nied there were any ac­tive dis­cus­sions re­gard­ing a re­place­ment for Swe­den.

Ciesla also de­nied there was any im­me­di­ate time­frame for dis­cus­sions with Rally Swe­den – de­spite sug­ges­tions agree­ment had to be reached be­fore the end of the event on Sun­day.

He told MN: “That’s ab­so­lute non­sense. Agree­ment for all events to be in­cluded for 2017 must be signed in Septem­ber and not be­fore. Rally Swe­den is un­der no obli­ga­tion to do any­thing next week. There’s noth­ing I can talk about re­gard­ing Swe­den and Nor­way, ex­cept to say that this is a rally which does bring value to the cham­pi­onship; there’s good sup­port here and it’s a brand which is de­liv­er­ing a lot of what we want. Swe­den works for this cham­pi­onship.

“As for dis­cus­sions with other ral­lies, there are no can­di­date win­ter events planned this year.”

Ciesla, who vis­ited Fin­land’s Arc­tic La­p­land Rally last month, added that he was keen to see more snow ral­lies on the cal­en­dar, with good po­ten­tial for two win­ter events on the sched­ule for the first time since 2007, when Swe­den and Rally Nor­way ran on con­sec­u­tive week­ends.

“The rally in La­p­land was fan­tas­tic,” he said. “What an ad­ven­ture it was – be­ing able to fol­low the rally on a snow­mo­bile and see­ing some of the pic­tures com­ing from that event was amaz­ing. Okay, we’re not go­ing to get 700,000 fans at­tend­ing th­ese ral­lies, but the vis­ual im­pacts were se­cond to none.

“We have talked to Canada, Ja­pan and Rus­sia in the past and we are in the ideas stage now for bring­ing a se­cond win­ter rally to the cal­en­dar. We are in a unique po­si­tion where we can show­case th­ese snow and ice con­di­tions at a world cham­pi­onship level; no­body else can do this and we have to look to ex­ploit this. If we can’t make that hap­pen for 2017 then let’s do it in 2018.”

Not keen on run­ning back-to- back events like in 2007, Ciesla said: “Why not come to Swe­den, then go to Mex­ico and then go back to an­other snow rally. This would be a con­trast and some­thing that would re­ally add to the story.”

Ciesla ruled the Arc­tic La­p­land Rally out of con­tention, point­ing out that two events in one coun­try – Fin­land – wouldn’t work.

The ab­sence of an­other WRC-ready snow event will strengthen Swe­den’s hand in the short term, but that po­si­tion won’t last for­ever with in­ter­est in host­ing rounds of the world cham­pi­onship build­ing in coun­tries like Canada, Rus­sia and Ja­pan – all of whom have snow-sure roads.

Cur­rently the cham­pi­onship’s most suc­cess­ful driver on win­ter ral­lies, Jari-matti Lat­vala ad­mit­ted he would be de­lighted to see more snow.

“I love to drive on this sur­face,” said the fac­tory Volk­swa­gen pi­lot. “I can imag­ine the pro­moter would be keen to see more. While us driv­ers en­joy driv­ing on as­phalt, the spec­ta­cle isn’t the same as when you are slid­ing side­ways all of the time like you are on snow.”

Rally Swe­den has run ev­ery year since 2010

Blomqvist: First WRC event

Swe­den has drawn strong crowds in re­cent ral­lies

Ciesla de­nied talk of Swe­den be­ing re­placed for ’17

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