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GP Week : Issue 112
Nasser: “Abu Dhabi events would have to start and finish there but there are many areas close to Al Ain, part of Abu Dhabi but some 100km inland, where suitable stages near the border in Oman are thought to exist.” Longer distance rallies! That is another mystery. What means ‘longer’? Currently the format of WRC events is constrained by the existing technical World Rally Car specifications, aimed at making it possible for the same type of car to compete and be competitive in every current type of event in the sport. Are we talking about events which would demand new and additional types of car? Nasser: “For the sort of event that UAE authorities have in mind, it will be necessary to have a car that is strong and not necessarily as fast as a current World Rally Car. There would have to be changes in suspension and tyres – it will be difficult to incorporate the changes, but we really need this kind of event in the championship.” Does the word ‘longer’ actually have no actual definition? Is it intended to mean anything you want it to mean? WRC Manager Michele Mouton: “ The objective is to have in the championship a different format, going back [to the old situation] that we give more flexibility to the organiser to do things differently, maybe to make more remote service – something that means more endurance. We are working onthat.Itwillbeawayof bringing rallying more to the public and to make the sport more challenging.” Is the endurance factor what the FIA are thinking about, or does ‘longer’ also mean something else, like running individual rallies in various different countries, like the cyclists’ Tour de France? Mouton: “Just what I said before – a different format and a different way of proposing the event. When you have flexibility it can be both longer in endurance or longer in the number of countries visited – you can make longer distance how you want. “Long distance simply means that you will have more mileage. We will always have to go and get approval for our ideas through the [World Rally Championship] Commission and then go through the manufacturers to speak with them and this has not yet been done. The basic aim is to end this idea of one single service park where everything is turning around. We don’t want to change everything but want to encourage to the possibility of a longer event, going to different countries if we need to.” Aren’t we going round in circles? This cross-border concept is where the world championship rally in Argentina came into the effect, with very long distant rallies (in which the FIA President Jean Todt competed as a co-driver), visiting a host of different countries. Indeed the first WRC event in South America in 1980 had Monte Carlo-style concentration runs from various countries in the Codasur network. Going back to Abu Dhabi. How can Abu Dhabi be given a championship rally when it doesn’t have its own motor sport federation affiliated to the FIA? Mouton: “You need to have a licence in order to apply to run the rally – it is not a problem at all. The Abu Dhabi organisers have not yet explained what they are trying to achieve, it is a little bit too early. Their final organisation team is not completed yet.” It is all getting very close in time. The worry is that the FIA is trying to make decisions quickly. Hasn’t Jordan’s absence from the 2012 calendar shown that the good things in life can be at risk if you want to make changes quickly? Mouton: “Jordan has put a lot of money in to running their rally and everybody enjoys the rally. It is a nice place to run a WRC rally and a nice place to come and visit.” There remains the unsolved question of how the uncertainties can be overcome. To what extent is Abu Dhabi pursuing the FIA for the chance to run the event, or is the FIA embarrassed that Jordan is having second thoughts, and having in turn to push Abu Dhabi into making place at an undesirable level of speed? Does anyone have a clear vision of what is going on? Middle East’s WRC at crossroads? WRC opinion >> 41