Gar­gan­tuan stage canned for next year

Motor Sport News - - Rally News -

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?”

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