OPINION SPLIT ON NEW THREE-CAR TEAMS RULE
Extra cars won’t necessarily bring in younger drivers Rally GB gets expanded TV coverage on Channel 5
A 2017 return to three-car teams will only serve to hike drivers’ salaries rather than improve the chances of young drivers getting into the World Rally Championship, says Citroen Racing team head Yves Matton.
Matton told Motorsport News he had always been against the potential change and has warned of the effects of the FIA’S decision to allow teams to run three cars next season.
The top two cars from each team will score points and Matton fears the sport will return to the time when the emphasis was placed on experience rather than youth to aid manufacturers’ efforts in the race for the makes’ championship.
“I agree that the teams need to run three cars,” said Matton. “But the way the regulations are written is not the way to promote new drivers coming to the championship, it is the way to promote the salaries of the [current] drivers.”
The regulation leaves Volkswagen and Hyundai in the strongest position for next year’s manufacturers’ crown – with both manufacturers fielding three experienced drivers.
Ironically, Volkswagen had worked against the change for the very reason Matton talks about, but team principal Sven Smeets said the German firm went with the majority.
“It was put on the agenda and nobody really complained about it,” said Smeets. “So we said ‘Well OK, if nobody else has a problem then we don’t.”
Smeets added that the current lack of experienced drivers at the top of the sport would inevitably lead to opportunity for less-experienced drivers – such as Craig Breen and Stephane Lefebvre, both of whom have been retained by Citroen for two years.
“It’s not like the days when we have seven manufacturers,” said Smeets. “There were maybe 20 drivers with experience. If you want three cars, you will have to put a young driver in the car anyway.”
There is also, according to Smeets, an argument in favour of the regulation making the sport easier for fans to understand.
He added: “We have fans asking what is the difference between Sebastien [Ogier] and Jari-matti’s [Latvala] cars in the Volkswagen Motorsport and Andreas Mikkelsen’s Polo which is run under the Volkswagen Motorsport II team. There is no difference, no difference at all. But this brings with it some confusion. Getting rid of this is a good thing.” The powerstage from this week’s Dayinsure Wales Rally GB will be broadcast live on mainstream British television for the first time ever.
Channel 5 will run an extended programme starting at 1145hrs Sunday morning. In addition to the Sunday show and its usual Monday night, hour-long review, the station will include daily highlights for the first time, running on either C5 or its sister station, Spike.
BT Sport will mirror that coverage with a show on Sunday morning from 0900hrs until 1330hrs, including the powerstage. For the first time, the powerstage will be broadcast live in high definition 4K.