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WRC Commission set to discuss event format changes

Event format changes that could debut next year are set to be discussed at a World Rally Championship commission meeting next week.

Esapekka Lappi, Janne Ferm, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

WRC Promoter has collated a raft of ideas over the last three months to improve the championship, having faced criticism from drivers concerned by the WRC's appeal and perceived lack of direction.

Following comments made by Hyundai's Thierry Neuville to Motorsport.com at Rally Portugal, the WRC Promoter invited drivers to a meeting to share their ideas to help improve the category's appeal in June.

Petter Solberg, vice-president of the FIA drivers' commission and 2003 world rally champion, has also assisted in collating ideas.

As previously revealed by Motorsport.com, several ideas are understood to be under consideration at a meeting on 22 September.

WRC Promoter has previously stated that changes to Sunday's format are at the top of its list. Condensing events, a possible restructuring of the points system, more remote services and a move away from a central service park are also being discussed.

Changes are set to be implemented in 2024 with a more significant raft of tweaks earmarked from 2025, subject to ratification by the FIA. The next meeting of the FIA's World Motor Sport Council where changes would need to secure approval, if proposed, is set to be held on 19 October.

Aside from this meeting, WRC Promoter has also offered WRC drivers to nominate a spokesperson to be added to the WRC Commission to be involved in future discussions.

"I think we will start [to make changes] in 2024 but we have to be respectful of events which work on a 12-month basis," WRC event director Simon Larkin told media, including Motorsport.com at the Acropolis Rally.

"The ideas that we are likely to present have had a very good reception from a number of events and we think they can make the more dynamic and real-world acceptable working hours to marshals and volunteers time.

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

"Should we be doing a stage at 7.08am in the morning and finishing the day with a stage at 6.08pm in the evening? I think there are a few events in the year we can do that [but] should that be the norm, particularly in Europe? I don't think that's a realistic proposition to continue.

"We [WRC Promoter] are a German company, we are bound by German law – so is Hyundai and Finland [Toyota] is the same with quite strict employment law regarding working hours.

"We need to maintain a strong base in Europe and maybe on some events outside Europe, we can push the boundaries a bit.

"I think Monte Carlo is one of those events that we would always want to push the boundary – it's a key part of the image of that event [to have long days]. Is Croatia one of those? Maybe not.

"Is Latvia, where we are going next year? Maybe not – it doesn't have that iconic brand image I think Monte Carlo has or Safari does.

"I think we can create a different flavour of events to suit the market and the type of story we're trying to tell. If we think of every season being a book, we want those 14 chapters to be exceptionally different."

When asked about the possibility of moving away from a central service park model, Larkin explained: "We absolutely are [open to changing the single service-park concept].

"We already do a lot of tyre fitting zones sometimes on a Friday to maximise the amount of kilometres we can do, and sometimes we do this on the Saturday. That already means two mechanics go to each tyre fitting zone.

"Maybe we need to have a model where a certain number of parts and tools can be carried in a certain way or in the car. If two mechanics are already there for a 15-minute tyre fitting zone… how long does it take to fit the tyres, four or five minutes? They can do more in that time and this can help keep cars in the event.

"Maybe there's a chance to keep cars running and add to the story. The other thing about remote service is that we believe the sport is too focused on the team being the driver and the co-driver, and there's not the recognition of the mechanics and the engineers working to keep the cars in the event.

"They [the mechanics] have a lot of pride to keep their cars running and if there is a tyre fitting zone I can't imagine the frustration of having a car retire knowing the equipment or part you could put in a box could help that car keep going.

"I think this is a critical part and it would make more heroes than just the drivers and co-drivers."

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