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GP Week : Issue 38
>>GPWEEKOPINION Will the WRC be blown away? Martin holMeS rallies editor IT was 30 years and one month ago that a turbocharged car first scored points in, and indeed won, a World Championship rally. Now it is announced, with less than two years’ advance notice, that turbo cars will be effectively banned from the series. Turbochargers will still remain in the World Championship on Group N cars, but cars fitted with them will not be eligible for manufacturers points. The decision to only insist that World Rally Cars be fitted with bolt-on aerodynamic devices, to distinguish these cars from Super 2000, means that turbo cars in Group N form and plain Super 2000 cars will have a good chance to be competitive on world rallies, which is good news for their drivers. With only two manufacturers currently running World Rally Cars, a change of rules was due. Super 2000 has indeed been groomed by the FIA for great things. The formula started off as a deliberate attempt at widening the opportunities at second level, meaning Group N rallying, and now is being prepared for the top line. But there are many outstanding decisions waiting to be resolved. First, to what extent must a manufacturer have a Super 2000 bolt-on kit to be eligible for running as a World Rally Car? Or, will a plain straightforward S2000 car be enough? Secondly, what will be the future championship rules regarding registration? Will registration continue to be a prerequisite for World Rally Car homologation? Homologation of a Super 2000 is inexpensive (eight manufacturers have done this already), but commitment to the world championship, required for a World Rally Car homologation, is a massive investment And thirdly, will the FIA now set about preparing new rules for a supporting rally formula, in the way that Group N was to the World Rally Cars? Will the various Group R rules fulfil that role? Certain consequences of the rule change seem guaranteed. The opportunity to enter World Championship rallies at the top level will become a lot more attractive for a private driver. The Super 2000 bolt-on kit rules do not expect to change the capability of the basic car, and so relevant performance differentials of the S2000 and the Group N cars are not likely to change. It makes one wonder why a bolt-on kit is necessary at all, except that the television producers want the registered team cars to look special. For me there are some nagging queries in my mind, most particularly the role of the manufacturers in the rule decision making process. During the long period of debate leading up to the FIA decisions, it has been the manufacturers who have led the way in letting us know where the future lay, not the FIA. Just sometimes a small quiet voice from the FIA explained that Max Mosley wanted pure Super 2000 to take over the leading role, but the manufacturers seemed to have deaf ears. And above all that came the insistence from the manufacturers that turbocharging had to be an essential ingredient in a new World Rally Car, as this represented the future specification of road cars. So, why is turbocharging now to be deferred? as this the fact of economic gloom suddenly forcing idealism into the background, the realisation by the FIA that their hopes of equating the performance levels of turbocharged Super 2000 cars with orthodox Super 2000 or Group N cars was more than they could handle, or a show of strength between the FIA and the manufacturers which the FIA has won? We know nothing – so let’s go racing! Michael Scott MotoGP editor Uncertainty stalks in MotoGP as in the world at large – as reflected in this issue’s feature on Credit Crunch racing. The main feeling to emerge from research is that not only does nobody know what really to expect, but that most people feel the worst may be yet to come. While official sources follow a regulation up-beat line, team managers privately admit to very real fears that problems might strike, especially at the lower echelons, even before the first race. Bike racing is no stranger to promised sponsorship that was all fine and dandy when the logos were being stuck on the fairings, but suddenly went wrong when it became time to bank the cheque. Since this generally happened to teams down at the far end of the 250 and 125 grids, where all sorts of dodgy dealing and brinkmanship is more or less expected, it often passed more or less unnoticed. Who remembers the Dark Dog Racing debacle of only a couple of years ago? It was former Suzuki team chief and now Haojue team director Garry Taylor who suggested that some teams might not even make the start of the season, let alone the finish; race director Paul Butler who felt that “we haven’t seen the worst of it yet”. Against this background, moves to cut costs by reducing track time look like little more than window-dressing. In the background, trying to stay out of sight, racing nabobs are wide- eyed with anxiety. A colleague raised the question with me this week: what should we race reporters be writing about? Should we be cheer- leading, with frantically up-beat stories that take no account of the larger picture? Or should we be picking the legs and wings off the racing insect, as we perceive it lying wounded? History will take its course either way, but readers can take comfort in the words of IRTA chief Hervé Poncharal, who believes that MotoGP racing was already overdue for a serious slimming course, having become financially bloated out of all proportion during the rich years of tobacco sponsorship. Whatever does emerge from the current fracas will be stronger than before. The real message seems to be that we know nothing, and we’re living on our nerves. No wonder everyone is aching for the relief of a motorbike race. It is after all already our favourite way of taking our mind off things. 23 opinion opinion