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GP Week : Issue 31
>>WRCcatalunya More to life than the result THE fewer the number of teams and the fewer the number of top line drivers, one might think that the number of stories waiting to be told are getting less and less. The contraction of the level of top line rally sport is assumed by many to be an inevitable consequence of the FIA’s perennial reluctance to say ‘no’ to an enthusiastic organiser wanting to be part of one of their championships. This has led to the increase in the number of events, which in addition to issues such as the uncoordinated promotion of the sport and the escalating costs of competing, has led to fewer participating teams. But there is a lot more to rallying than championship points and the number of podium placings you achieve. All over the world alternative fun is waiting to be written about, and the Pirelli Star Driver challenge brought a lot of this into the open. Take Malaysia for a start. The problem was that the FIA and Pirelli took a long time before they decided how the tyre manufacturers’monopoly could be used to help lower level motorsport. Regional championships were an ideal platform, but the Asia-Pacific series was well advanced and time was long past when they could have run a mini-championship for their Under 27s, like they did in the African and Middle East series. So it was to be Shoot-Out in Malaysia. The Under 27 driver who takes the most MArtin HolMes rallies editor fastest times among his peers on this event would get the drive in next year’s World Championship events. It didn’t matter if they finished or not, outright speed was the thing. An alternative theme got going this year in Sweden with a prize for the longest jump on ‘Colin’s Crest,’a popular spectator venue on the Vargasen stage. No requirement about finishing the rally, or even the stage in question. The one thing that mattered was the exact spot where the driver’s tyre marks first appeared. A similar theme was continued on the Acropolis Rally – there it was a prize for the driver who won the fastest stage of the rally. Chris Atkinson won the prize and then crashed (while still in the mood) on the next stage to retire from the event. Thinking about the wisdom of not pulling the tale of a lion, one wondered if and when the FIA would clamp down on such sporting irreverence. But the FIA itself had also got into the alternative groove. They have been considering whether they should judge the acceptability of homologation applications according to the time it takes mechanics to fit the appropriate parts. The ‘alternative’ tyre supplier BF Goodrich, meanwhile, had decided that the best way to select a celebrity driver for rounds in the IRC was to put a group of rally journalists round a lunch table and withhold the food until a decision about the suitable driver had been found. But nothing quite matched the crazy plans for the European Pirelli Shoot- Out to be held at the end of October. Nine countries were eligible to nominate drivers for the European Shoot Out, the countries which organise qualifying rounds of the European series this year. An old scene emerged – other countries wanted to be involved. Why were European countries who organise existing World Championship rallies unable to make a nomination? Welcome, you shall come to the party. Please also come in Austria, whose country hosted the Shoot-Out. And then, why just Europe? South America and Central America, don’t stand outside, come in as well. Things were now well out of control and the countries knew it. This was a major political chance for national publicity. The winners of the ‘European’awards were not going to be a driver, it was going to be the country who nominated them. Once again the FIA head into crisis as they wish once again to expand their activities. They forget there is, after all, more to the sport than the championships. 45 opinion