WRC post Loeb - what hope?


In the wake of Sebastien Loeb winning his ninth consecutive World Rally Championship crown, it seems appropriate to consider the health of the series both in the context of Loeb’s unprecedented dominance and in light of several recent developments.

Nobody can stop him - is quitting a lifeline for WRC?
Nobody can stop him - is quitting a lifeline for WRC?
It’s regrettable that in the eyes of many, Loeb’s reign over the WRC will be remembered as the factor that killed it; at least in terms of their own interest in the sport. To undermine a man’s achievements in such a manner is to detract from the sheer brilliance that formed their basis. That seems unfair, but close competition is what makes any sporting pursuit captivating. In the short term, then, Loeb’s period of rule over the WRC will absolutely do harm to the series, but you hope that in years and decades to come we can look back at this era with nostalgia and a sense of romance, some degree of satisfaction that we were fortunate enough to witness something that will likely never be bettered as long as the WRC survives, in whatever shape or form that may be.

Hopefully we can eventually look back on Loeb’s success with the same fondness we do the spectacle of Group B.

If he keeps winning what does it mean?
If he keeps winning what does it mean?
What we do know is that the title Loeb won on home recently will almost certainly be his last, for he’ll only contest a part campaign in 2013 due to him being “a little tired of the schedule imposed by the World Rally Championship, what with the test sessions, reconnaissance and the various other things.” Loeb is off to try his hand in the World Touring Car Championship – with Citroen, naturally. It’s something of a shame that the mercurial Frenchman won’t be gunning for a 10th WRC title but for a handful of rallies at least we’ll still have a benchmark by which to judge all other competitors.

But if Loeb wins all the rallies he enters next season it’ll be hard to believe that the eventual World Champion is the best rally driver in the world. Regardless, the WRC will have a new champion in 2013 and for some that’ll be akin to progress.

Ford is quitting WRC as a manufacturer
Ford is quitting WRC as a manufacturer
Such of a much more meaningful type has come in the form of a new promoter for the series and a new manufacturer, too. Red Bull Media House and Sportsman Media have together taken grasp of the WRC’s commercial reins, an agreement that will hopefully result in a broadcasting deal that finally exploits emerging technologies. We can feel confident that this development is exceptionally good news for the WRC.

Hyundai’s commitment to the series from 2014 is also extremely positive. Far Eastern manufacturers have historically invested much in the series – think Toyota, Mitsubishi and Subaru – to the immeasurable benefit of the sport’s fans, but the WRC has lacked an Eastern entrant since Subaru quit in 2008. We can expect a whole new demographic of fans to be attracted to the series once Hyundai’s i20 WRC hits the stages.

Mini adventure in WRC didn't pay off
Mini adventure in WRC didn't pay off
“The WRC offers the most technologically-diverse challenge for an automotive manufacturer. Our participation will demonstrate Hyundai’s engineering excellence and durability, and will also help to enhance our passenger vehicles in future,” says Mark Hall, Marketing Director at Hyundai Motor Europe, suggesting that the eternal art of powersliding through forests still has marketing value for car manufacturers. Hyundai’s programme will be a full works effort run out of the brand’s Frankfurt base, apparently, with driver line-ups yet to be decided.

So Loeb is on his way out, the promotion of the series seems to be in trustworthy hands and new manufacturers are taking an interest. On the flip side, both Mini and Ford have canned their involvement as factory entrants; a huge blow given that things really were looking up, but such is the state of the European new car market. We can find some solace in the knowledge that Prodrive and M-Sport will at least continue to run privately funded Mini and Ford Fiesta World Rally Cars in 2014.

VW arrives in WRC next year
VW arrives in WRC next year
One also wonders how long Citroen will continue with its WRC campaign once its WTCC programme is up and running. Should the worst happen, we’ll only have VW and Hyundai fielding works cars, leaving us with a series contested by two manufacturers – just as it has been for the last four seasons.

These remain uncertain times for the World Rally Championship, but there have been many meaningful changes of late and change is inarguably better than stagnation.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (82) Join the discussion on the forum

  • ArnageWRC 27 Oct 2012

    As ever with the WRC/ Rally threads, some good discussion.

    And has been said, there is some confused thoughts. "The cars are no longer relevant to what I can buy in the showrooms" "They need to be more like GpB..."
    So, what do you want? The Manufacturers didn't want to build the Homologation specials, as they were too costly. Which brought in the WRC formula, in 1997. Since then we've had; Ford, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Seat, Peugeot, Hyundai, Skoda, Citroen, Suzuki, Mini, and now VW......and apart from Subaru and Mitsubishi (possibly Mini), you couldn't buy what you see in the stages. And all have walked away, except Citroen, with VW joining next year, and Hyundai rejoining a year later. That's a lot of Manufacturers walking away - which suggests there is a problem with the sport.

    Where are the diesels? The hybrids? etc Should the WRC leave the future technology to Sportscars, F1, etc Or should it try and be the greatest Motorsport show on snow, gravel & Tarmac? Cars with more power than grip, spectacle, etc I think RedBull might help with this side of the sport.

    I still believe there is a big audience out there for the WRC, but they're not being engaged. Your 'hard-core' Rallyfan likes the current 1.6T WRCars, whereas, it seems as if the casual/ general Motorsport fan thinks they're 'rubbish shopping trolleys'. The recent RallyGB proved that there aren't enough of the 'hard-core' fans, and the casual fan needs attracting. So how do they do that? Sadly, the boss of RallyGB is deluded; he still thinks the event is one of the top sporting events in the country....what planet is he on?

  • TankRS 27 Oct 2012

    interloper said:
    Pistonwot said:
    ITS NOT EXCITING,
    its not even a sport anymore. Its a marketing scheme for substandard scrap cars.
    Group B Stratos or a Fiesta/Mini?
    Hmmmm,,,,, engineerings finest offerings OR puny cars developed to suit "Modern Lifestyle Choices"
    One glance of that pretentious Mini thing has me in fits of laughter every time, its a scrapper. I am glad it has gone POS!
    How can anyone enjoy a sport this rediculous and hollow?

    Loeb deserves all the credit he gets as do Citroen.
    The fact that other teams like Ford and Prodrive are posing no threat is nothing to do with either Loeb or Citroen.
    I'm fairly critical of what the WRC has become but this post smacks of massive ignorance...
    completely agree, unfortunately i find most posts wrc related on this forum are from people with the old 'it was better in the Group B days, and while i have to agree the action was spectacular then, look how it all ended! a return to that certainly is not wanted by anyone considering themselves a rallyist!

    as much as I'd love to barge into the 100,000 F1 threads on here and shout about how crap a sport it is now, i wont. simply because i don't watch it anymore so have no real basis for my claims, and for the simple fact that i see no point in smack talking about something i have no interest in anymore.
    the one particular line that gets me each time is that the cars share nothing with the road going versions. some truth in that there is. when could you last go out and buy a car their fave F1 driver races every Sunday?

    VidalBaboon said:
    Frimley111R said:
    I can't help thinking that there's not much point in rally cars based on road ones if you can't buy something that looks very similar in a showroom like the WRX/EVO/Cosworth. Leob winning in a DS3 will have little effect on people buying a 1.6d version.
    This.
    while i agree having the ability to have gone out and bought a car that looked very much like the one battering round a WRC stage was awesome back in the day, and its a damn shame that you cant do something similar now.

    i just think its a sign of the times, we are still financially FUBAR'd aren't we?, that this is the reason car makers wont make limited runs of their current crop of WRC cars.
    Besides Citroen putting white wheels and stickers on a C4 & C2 VTS' and calling it the 'by Loeb edition' (I've only ever seen one of these on the road so cant imagine they sold in buckets over here) we've had nothing really special from either manufacturer.

  • VidalBaboon 25 Oct 2012

    Frimley111R said:
    I can't help thinking that there's not much point in rally cars based on road ones if you can't buy something that looks very similar in a showroom like the WRX/EVO/Cosworth. Leob winning in a DS3 will have little effect on people buying a 1.6d version.
    This.

  • interloper 24 Oct 2012

    Pistonwot said:
    ITS NOT EXCITING,
    its not even a sport anymore. Its a marketing scheme for substandard scrap cars.
    Group B Stratos or a Fiesta/Mini?
    Hmmmm,,,,, engineerings finest offerings OR puny cars developed to suit "Modern Lifestyle Choices"
    One glance of that pretentious Mini thing has me in fits of laughter every time, its a scrapper. I am glad it has gone POS!
    How can anyone enjoy a sport this rediculous and hollow?

    Loeb deserves all the credit he gets as do Citroen.
    The fact that other teams like Ford and Prodrive are posing no threat is nothing to do with either Loeb or Citroen.
    I'm fairly critical of what the WRC has become but this post smacks of massive ignorance...

    First off the Stratos was a Group 4 car, it didnt compete in Group B and unlike the MK2 Escort didnt get re homologated for Group B.

    Secondly you may not like MINIs and Fiestas but the engineers have poured all their worth into them to make them competetive. May I point out that WRC cars still cover the ground faster than the Group B kit we all worship.

    Thirdly its still a sport, they dont draw straws or toss a dice to decide the out come!

  • PSBuckshot 24 Oct 2012

    Pistonwot said:
    ITS NOT EXCITING,
    its not even a sport anymore. Its a marketing scheme for substandard scrap cars.
    Boring right?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8xBbvaz7j4

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