16 Apr 08
The World Rally Championship has undergone enormous change since the first drivers' title was awarded back in 1979.
From two-wheel drive, to Group B, then Group A and now WRC, the top flight of rallying has never stayed the same for very long.
And the WRC is going to change again. In 2010 and 2011 the current specification of WRC cars will be phased out in favour of modified Group N and Super 2000 models. The WRC calendar will shrink from 15 to 12 rounds and the number of events will increase to 24.
It's an exciting time for the WRC, but like any period of change it's potentially confusing too.
The governing body of motor sport worldwide, the FIA, is implementing the changes, many of which were suggested by the FIA's WRC think tank, the World Rally Championship Commission.
Here, in an exclusive two part interview for wrc.com, Morrie Chandler, President of the World Rally Championship Commission, answers our questions on the future direction of the WRC.
Part two deals with technical changes to the cars which will contest the series, but for part one the focus is on the WRC rallies themselves:
Can you explain the job of the World Rally Championship Commission, who is in it, and what it aims to do?
The Commission is effectively responsible for steering the WRC, growing the sport and ensuring its continued success. It's made up of nine people, six of whom are chairmen of relevant FIA working groups. These groups provide expertise in matters like technical regulations, promotion and safety, and also represent the views of manufacturers and rally organisers. A representative of the sport's commercial rights holder, ISC, also sits on the Commission, as does the President of the FIA Rallies Commission, which is responsible for the other rallying series - like the FIA's regional championships. Decisions of the Commission ultimately come down to votes. But to be honest we don't use this method much in the early stages of discussion because we try to find a solution that everyone agrees with.
This year there are 15 rallies in the world rally championship, next year there will be 12. Why the reduction?
This idea came about in 2007 when FIA President Max Mosley and Deputy President Marco Piccinini visited the Acropolis Rally and met with the WRC manufacturer teams. Teams had been pushing for a reduction for some time. They had been saying that 16 events was too hard and too expensive. The end result was that the World Motorsport Council decided to drop the number of rallies to 12 from 2009 and to allow new events to come in on a rotational basis.
How is the new system going to work?
We considered a number of different rotation systems but what we've ended up with is a two year calendar and a total of 24 rallies. Every event will be run once every two years.
Have you found 24 WRC rallies yet?
Yes we have. There are 24 events filling up the approved 2009 and 2010 calendars. Some of them have never been in the WRC before and they're going through an observation process this year and next. We have a permanent FIA delegate appointed to work with the organisers of those events to help them understand exactly what's expected of them. The fact is a WRC rally is not like a national event or even a Regional Championship event; there's a huge step up to WRC level - huge in financial investment, huge in effort and huge in many other ways.