WRC powerbrokers rebuke driver concerns regarding promotion
By Jason Craig
Thursday 21st September, 2023 - 3:24pm
Senior figures from within the FIA World Rally Championship are having to become ‘more fanciful’ to allay the concerns of Rally1 drivers who fear the sport is losing some of its shine.
Senior Director for Sport at WRC Promoter, Peter Thul, conceded those overseeing the series had been guilty of underselling it, although the picture was not as bad as the one that has been painted in recent times.
Back in July, Hyundai Motorsport’s Thierry Neuville claimed rallying’s top flight had lost its momentum following the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that “no one cares” about it.
This has since led to discussions taking place with the Belgian and his peers, Thul, the FIA’s Road Sport Director Andrew Wheatley, and also WRC Promoter Simon Larkin.
“We have a perception and we have a reality,” said Thul. “Our viewing figures are good but that does not mean we cannot improve. We take any criticism seriously and we maybe, let’s say, have to be a bit more fanciful in promoting ourselves.
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“This is something we have learned but, again, all the criticism is more than welcome, especially if it brings the sport forward.
“We have had an excellent conversation with Thierry – he is someone who puts himself into the discussion – and also the others because it is not only him, but it is quite okay, this is okay.
“We are in a competitive environment. We have to rewrite the story of rallying and we are working on it.”
Larkin reiterated the need for those at the head of the World Rally Championship to communicate more clearly with those working in the service park, and to make it known that their views matter and change will happen where possible.
“Whatever the stakeholder, whether it is Thierry, whether it is a team, whether it is a supplier or whoever, if they have a [negative] perception then that is a problem,” he said.
“We need to counter that and if we think we can do that by being more open around things and what our future strategy is, then great.
“Our drivers are our ambassadors and the last thing we need is for them talking to you [the media] or anyone, or on their own social media, in a negative way.
“Okay, we know they make a lot of money out of it but we need them to be our biggest fans and we need them to be out there telling people, ‘this sport is amazing, come and look at it’.”