Taking a stand on an issue that has always been a controversial part of racing and isn't going away anytime soon...
There's a virus that has long plagued motorsports and has sickened race fans. There is no panacea to rid us of it; no cure to eradicate it from existence. It taints events everywhere and tarnishes the integrity of motor racing. It walks all over the fundamentals of an auto race and robs fans of the show they paid good money to see. It takes what could be a spectacular finish and turns it into a parade lap, leaving an indelible mark on the event. Instead of a ferocious battle between teammates that forces the other to really earn the checkered flag, one gets it handed to them due to a simple order.
A team order. That term appalls and exasperates me so much, and what really infuriates me is that in some racing disciplines, it's tolerated. I'll try to be a bit benign when talking about team orders, but I do have a fervent distaste for them (in case you haven't already noticed).
Remember five seconds ago when I said teams utilize team orders because it's a smart business decision? Well, I don't really understand what the advantage was in this particular situation. Does Citroën really believe that world class racers the caliber of Loeb, Lopez, and Muller are going to wreck each other? The likeliness of that happening is slim to none. I mean, it's such a gratuitous thing to do in the very first race of the season. What's the benefit in what they did? It gets you publicity, but certainly not good publicity.
Now to clarify, some team orders are actually necessary, reasonable, and don't bother me like outright manipulation of races or championships do. Like when a teammate lets the other lead a lap in a NASCAR event or when someone gives up 9th place in race two of the Formula One season. Right there though, I made myself look like a hypocrite. Here's where the line between what's right and what's wrong gets indefinably blurry...
Those little gestures that few care to give a second glance to could very well change the outcome of an event or even the championship. The couple points gained may end up being all a driver needs to win the title when it's all said and done.
On a more complex note, let's say teammate B is given 9th place by teammate A. Then let's say teammate B causes a full-course yellow when he runs into a lap car a couple laps later; something that wouldn't have happened if teammate A had still been in 9th. Then it just snowballs from there and before you know it, the race outcome is completely changed. What you've done is opened Pandora's Box.
There's no fighting against intangible 'what if' scenarios like that though. We simply can't police such things. It's humanely impossible unless you can read the minds of every single driver and team member there. I'm not moving towards an ending where I will offer a solution to ending team orders once and for all, because there is no universal remedy. The only thing I suggest is that racing series across the world take action when they know a race or championship is directly altered by team orders.
It was an unfortunate chain of events that tore down what was otherwise, an upstanding organization. I'll tell you this though, It sure did scare everyone else and made other teams think twice about messing around with races after the stunt pulled by MWR.
Now let's go back to World Touring Car real quick. There was incontrovertible evidence, leaving no doubt that team orders had been the deciding factor in the outcome of both races at Marrakech. However, not a single thing was done by the WTCC officials.
That is what irks me. As I stated before, the indomitable problem that is team orders can't be controlled, but there is absolutely no reason why we can't punish those who blatantly employ such tactics. Not to pick on WTCC, they are just the most recent example and the inspiration, if you will, to this piece. For the sake of motorsports, don't just do nothing when situations such as this arise. Tighten the leash, start reprimanding these offenders, and it's less likely to happen.
I love racing more than most other things in life, and it pains me so much to watch a race get twisted into nothing more than an act. It infuriates me in ways that words will not allow me to express.
Nothing will be done though, and so this virus will continue to defile motorsports and make a mockery of everything the word 'motorsport' stands for. It will continue poisoning races everywhere and tainting championships until someone with the power to do something actually steps up and refuses to put up with it any longer.