Gargantuan stage canned for next year
Rally Mexico will not run the 50-mile Guanajuato stage again – much to the relief of WRC Promoter and a selection of the drivers.
Last week’s Leon-based event included the World Rally Championship’s longest test since the 1986 Tour de Corse, a record that looks set to stand for some time, with no desire from the promoter to see it repeated in the series.
Rally director Patrick Suberville told MN he was glad to have tried Sunday’s Guanajuato stage, but it wouldn’t be back in 2017.
“You should have seen rally control on Saturday night into Sunday morning,” he said. “There was some tension! No we won’t be doing this again. Definitely not. I’m really happy that we tried it and I had full confidence in the team that they would be able to do it, but not again. The important thing for us was that it appeared seamless to people on the outside – we achieved that.”
For organisational purposes, the stage was split into three, with three stage commanders and three sets of safety cars running at the start, middle and finish. “We had more safety cars on that stage than we had rally cars!” said Suberville, who also revealed that his original intention was to run the 50-miler as the live television powerstage.
“I fought like hell for this,” he said. “But the FIA and the promoter said no. In the end I convinced them to let us run the stage – it’s the promoter’s job to make the story for television. Trouble is, they want everything cookiecoloured for the whole championship, they don’t want change. But Rally Mexico has got to this point by being daring and different and that will continue.”
WRC promoter Oliver Ciesla said: “From the promoter’s point of view an 80km stage is too long and doesn’t add any sporting or commercial value and nor does it make the competition more interesting. In fact, the opposite seems the case – it’s even questionable whether this long stage motivates the drivers to go flat-out or look to bring the car to the finish.”
On the future of long stages, Ciesla added: “We do not encourage rallies to run stages longer than 50 or 60km [around 30-35 miles] – we do not see the added value; endurance is sufficiently covered in the WRC as it is.”
Astrange thing happened this weekend, we had a round of the British Rally Championship! Eighteen months after the Manx Rally 2014, the Phoenix rose from the flames. There was so much pre-event anticipation, some might call it hype, that I’m sure this came as a surprise to no one. What might, however, come as a surprise, is that this event actually lived up to all that hype.
OK, so the ‘service park’ was actually a disjointed mosaic of car parks on a sprawling industrial estate on the edges of Newtown. The base was an ugly concrete monstrosity that even the architect would probably now disown. But none of that mattered.
We had the British Rally Championship back. We had some of the best stages in the world. We had proper ‘take two steps back when they fly past you’ rally cars in abundance. We had some of the most exciting young drivers in the world showing us their outrageously precocious talents. And boy, what a weekend we all had.
I suppose the big question that needs answering is just how British rallying found itself back in this miraculously hopeful and seemingly healthy position? The answer is actually relatively easy. The vision, energy, tenacity and blind optimism of one man, IMS managing director Ben Taylor.
He’s a bit of a strange one really for a managing director. You won’t find Ben swanning around the service park in fancy tweeds and highly polished loafers keeping perfectly manicured and moisturised hands away from the oily reality of rallying. This man is very much one of us. In Newtown, he buzzed around in his old well-worn Cat boots, beanie hat pulled down low, a cheery word of welcome and thanks readily available for everyone from the car park attendant to the mayor of Newtown.
He exudes passion and enthusiasm for our sport and I believe him when he says his priority is not to turn a profit from the BRC but to see it returned to its rightful position as the number one national rally championship in the world. Based on past performance and past characters, it’s easy to be sceptical of these kind of statements. But I challenge anyone who was present at the BRC launch reception to honestly question this man’s integrity. The talk he gave was full of raw emotion, laid bare honesty, and unbridled enthusiasm. Was I the only one with a wee tear in my eye at the end of it? I don’t think so.
This is a man who you can strenuously disagree with, yet rarely fall out with. It’s a skill and talent that will undoubtedly stand him in good stead in the coming months and years.
Perhaps only once did the “one of us” mask slip slightly over the weekend. Sitting in a portacabin, surround by plastic coffee cups and polystyrene containers of greasy chips and highly questionable burgers, he turned to a colleague and asked “joining us for supper Johnny?”