China is go af­ter event brief­ing

“Cur­rent run­ning order rules aren’t fair”

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - AGREE/DIS­AGREE? mn.let­ters@hay­mar­ket.com

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from all sides of the World Rally Cham­pi­onship at­tended a China Rally brief­ing in Bei­jing last week.

The del­e­ga­tion in­cluded team per­son­nel as well as mem­bers of the FIA and WRC Pro­moter. A tour of the stages along with a first look at the ser­vice park were on the agenda in an ef­fort to de­flect grow­ing dis­quiet about the lack of in­for­ma­tion about the Septem­ber event.

WRC Pro­moter Oliver Ciesla was in Bei­jing ear­lier this year and says he is now happy with progress.

“There is no need for any more spec­u­la­tion about China,” said Ciesla. “We have been there just be­fore go­ing to Ar­gentina and we can con­firm ev­ery­thing is in place. Its true there was a real lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, but we have re­ceived the first draft of the itin­er­ary, we iden­ti­fied a lo­ca­tion for the ser­vice park and most pro­mo­tional ac­tiv­i­ties are in place. We are very con­fi­dent in China.”

The all-asphalt route for Rally China is with the FIA and, MN un­der­stands, con­forms with the gov­ern­ing body’s spe­cific re­quire­ments with­out the need for a waiver.

An event web­site is now up and run­ning (rally-china. com) con­firm­ing ‘around’ 15 stages at an av­er­age al­ti­tude of 500 me­tres in the Huairou District. Rally HQ will be lo­cated at Yanqi Lake, around 40 miles north of down­town Bei­jing.

This will be the WRC’S first re­turn to the Far East since Rally Ja­pan de­parted in 2010. It will be China’s first world cham­pi­onship qual­i­fier since Di­dier Au­riol won the na­tion’s one and only WRC round in 1999 in a Toy­ota Corolla.

I’m not go­ing to get drawn back into the whole run­ning order ar­gu­ment. Re­peat.

I’m not go­ing to get drawn back… OK, one last time. Re­in­force the soap­box, I’m climb­ing aboard. The cur­rent reg­u­la­tions are not fair. Sorry, Kris Meeke, Hay­den Pad­don and the rest of you, but they’re not. What we have at the mo­ment is a cham­pi­onship skewed to­wards en­ter­tain­ment, at the ex­pense of pure com­pe­ti­tion.

There’s so much non­sense be­ing spouted right now about the way for­ward. Stop all that, I have the so­lu­tion. Draw lots. Down­hill ski­ing is a sport that can be hugely com­pro­mised by change­able weather con­di­tions be­tween the first and last com­peti­tor down the moun­tain. In heavy snow, a skier re­ally doesn’t want to be to close to the front, but when the sun’s up, it’s dis­ad­van­ta­geous to be too far back when the snow’s get­ting softer, heav­ier and slower.

Down­hill ski­ing was faced with this pre­cise is­sue some time ago and the FIS – In­ter­na­tional Ski Fed­er­a­tion – dealt with it quickly and fairly.

The top 15 ranked skiers in the world pick a num­ber and that’s where they start their run. Sim­ple. Couldn’t be more sim­ple. Couldn’t be more im­par­tial. Couldn’t be eas­ier to ex­plain. Couldn’t be eas­ier to im­ple­ment. Crack on. No chance. Why so? Four dif­fer­ent win­ners in the last four ral­lies. That’s why. What we’ve got now is con­sid­ered the best form of en­ter­tain­ment, which helps make sell-able telly.

The fact that it’s con­trived, ma­nip­u­lated and aimed firmly at slow­ing Se­bastien Ogier doesn’t mat­ter one bit to the WRC pro­moter. And nor should it, it’s the pro­moter’s job to make sell-able telly. Box ticked.

It should, how­ever, mat­ter to the FIA, un­der whose sport­ing gov­er­nance the WRC falls. Surely the FIA has a duty to take the spirit level to the play­ing field rather than load­ing it up in one di­rec­tion.

It was a con­ver­sa­tion with a vastly well in­formed, me­dia-sussed and com­mer­cially savvy col­league; the sort I thought might well favour such a smoke and mir­rors ap­proach to clos­ing the top end of our sport up.

“It’s like telling the All Blacks they’ve got to take to the field with 13 play­ers,” he said.

He’s right. On the telly, it’s hard to spot a team two play­ers down, but on the field the world’s best would be frus­trated and, on oc­ca­sion, made to look a bit silly. Sound fa­mil­iar? A win against Ogier would be worth so much more if it came un­der more even-handed reg­u­la­tion. His ri­vals, the same ones I find it hard to be­lieve wouldn’t share his ex­as­per­a­tion were they in the same po­si­tion, rel­ish in point­ing to the events where he will ben­e­fit from life at the front.

Thereby com­pletely miss­ing Ogier’s point. He doesn’t want an ad­van­tage like he doesn’t want a dis­ad­van­tage. He wants par­ity. No more. No less.

Enough said? Think so.

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