WILSON WANTS TO STICK WITH RUNNING ORDER M-sport team boss says current rules help to create a variety of WRC winners
M-sport team principal Malcolm Wilson has risked incurring the wrath of world champion Sebastien Ogier by speaking out in favour of the current running order regulations remaining in place for next season.
Ogier has become increasingly vocal as the year has progressed about what he feels is a lack of equality in the rule which says the championship leader has to drive first on the road for the first two days of each rally. Such has been the Frenchman’s frustration with the FIA he has hinted at a departure from the sport if rule change doesn’t come in 2017.
Despite Ogier’s anger and FIA rally director Jarmo Mahonen admitting this year’s regulations had gone “a step too far,” Wilson says he’s confident the current position could remain.
It was hoped confirmation of next season’s running order would come from last month’s World Motor Sport Council – a decision is now expected later this month or early in November, following an e-vote from stakeholders.
“My vote would be to stay as we are,” Wilson told MN. “We’ve been crying out for years to have different winners and this year we’ve had six different drivers winning in six consecutive rounds of the championship. Surely that’s got to be a good thing?”
Wilson added that he felt the calendar changes for next season allied to completely new technical regulations would even up the field.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said, “I sympathise [with Ogier], but to be honest having Corsica move to April from the back end of the year will make a big difference next season. It will remove that long run of gravel rallies which was the cause of so much of the problem this year.
“And, don’t forget we’ve got the new cars coming and I’m pretty sure there’s going to be some reliability issues along the way with those. You can do all the testing in the world, but you’ll still get the odd little niggle. With all of that in consideration, I would be very happy for the running order to stay as it is for next season.”
Ogier reiterated his desire for change, saying: “What we have today is not fair. I want something that’s fair for next year, it’s that simple. I want something that gives everybody a chance on every rally and I want the rules to change to help us stop talking about this!”
Kris Meeke – the man Ogier has identified as one of the primary threats to what’s looking increasingly like the defence of his fourth title next season – says he’s not bothered about the running order.
“Yves [Matton, Citroen team principal] has called me a couple of times to talk about what might be happening or what could be happening,” said Meeke, “but I’ve told him I don’t care what the decision is; just to give me a call the week before Monte Carlo and tell me what’s happening then. Whatever the rules, the best driver is going to win the title at the end of the year. If you’re in a title fight, you’re going to be running alongside your main title rival, so it doesn’t matter to me.
“But, if Malcolm’s after keeping the rules the same for this year, all I would say is that he can’t have much confidence in his new car if he’s wanting a clean road.”
develop the World Rally Car.”
Abbring and Marshall have completed just three world championship rounds in a World Rally Car this season – their best result coming in Finland, when they stood in for an injured Sordo and guided a 2016 i20 to ninth overall. Abbring will start this week’s Rally of Spain in a 2015 car and possibly Wales Rally GB in an i20 R5.
Neuville was confirmed in the third car last week, while Dani Sordo was announced in the summer. Sordo, Neuville and Hayden Paddon will remain with Hyundai until the end of the 2018 season.
Neuville had negotiations with Citroen and Toyota before deciding to stick with his current employer – there was, however, surprise in the service park that he went for a two-year deal. The Belgian’s preference, it’s understood, was a singleseason extension, which would have given him the freedom to move at the end of next year.
“Although I had alternative options available,” said Neuville, “it seemed the most logical decision to keep up the great momentum we have within this team.
“We have shared very special moments together since the team’s debut in WRC. Our first win together in Germany [in 2014] was one of my career highlights. With a new car next year, and even more ambitious targets, I am excited by what this next chapter will bring.”