“The WRC is about making good news stories”
Marcus Gronholm, Petter Solberg, Sebastian Loeb, Marko Martin – they’re some of the greatest names from a bygone era in our sport.
Over 100 wins and 12 world titles between them, these guys have done their bit for the WRC and should be revered and remembered for their achievements already written.
But if we are to believe Jost Capito, this group of venerable rallying veterans could well be playing a pivotal part in next year’s world championship. Capito is not a happy man right now. He strongly believes proposed regulations allowing three potential point-scoring drivers in each team for 2017 are not good for the sport. And don’t get him wrong, he certainly doesn’t mean not good for his employer Volkswagen.
On the face of it, it’s a more than a slightly curious situation; it’s not often you come across a team principal who argues against regulation change that would benefit his team. That’s why I believe Capito is a misunderstood character. Long before he became one of world motorsport’s heaviest of hitters, he was a rally fan. At the core of the man, is a light that shines as brightly as ever for our sport.
Any of the press pack who, like I, attended his last, last briefing as head of motorsport at Ford in Monte Carlo, many many moons ago will testify to this. His speech and his reasoning was so impassioned and so personal that no one in the room could fail to see where he was coming from. So much so, that astonishingly – especially considering the sceptical audience – many were reduced to tears. He was concerned then about the future of the sport, and he’s concerned now.
He’s concerned about credibility. Capito feels the starting order regulations, coupled with the proposed best two from three scorers, is a green light for parachuting in the above mentioned vets to steal rally wins. He argues the sport will look absurd if a 48-year-old who retired from rallying in 2007 is able to return and take victories from the supposed best drivers in the world. I can see his point.
“Not possible!” I hear many of you screaming. Well, consider this: if a driver who, 12 months ago, had never driven a four-wheel-drive car on gravel and has only effectively contested two gravel events in a WRC car can win a stage in Sardinia (Eric Camilli), surely it’s possible for Marcus Gronholm to do the same? Gronholm will have more seat time than almost any other driver in 2017 machinery...
But here’s where I don’t necessarily agree with Capito. If we did see a return from any of our old boys, I would be delighted. It’s all about stories. And that would be one hell of a story.