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GP Week : Issue 156
NEW WRC CRISIS HIRVONEN UNHURT IN TUSCANY CRASH Late in the evening of 28 May, the day after the end of the Acropolis Rally, the organisers of current FIA World Rally Championship events were issued with the conditions for staying in the championship in 2013. Essentially, they were given 11 days’ notice to agree to a new financial one-year plan if they wished their event to be in the 2013 calendar. The FIA’s proposed business plan involves a new and immediate commitment to pay an extra Euros100,000 for the event timing, and tracking and television costs, on top of the standard Euros 140,000 calendar fee for running a world championship event. Under the previous official WRC promoters, North One Sport, organisers did not have to pay for timing and tracking, and were in fact paid Euros 25,000 as part of an agreement to relinquish their television rights, so the additional fee represents a total fee of a quarter million Euros. The scale of these financial demands could not have come at a more difficult time for organisers, leading to fears that many organisers, especially of popular and long established WRC events, will be unable to afford to stay in the championship. Selection of championship events will therefore effectively be by purchase into the series, the process originally proposed when ISC handled the promotion of the series, and strongly resisted by the FIA at that time. The organiser of one well established WRC event says these demands were madness: “Obviously these are desperate times for the FIA, coming after losing the support from Abu Dhabi and now Nokia. We have been in the WRC scene for around 40 years or so and have never known times like these. If the championship is to continue in its present form, it does not make sense. “Every organiser is losing money on WRC events these days. Who can expect to pay this extra money – and especially who can make the commitment at less than a fortnight’s notice?” The FIA’s current plan is that a provisional list of events being considered for a position in the 2013 calendar, albeit without dates, is to be issued at the FIA’s World Council meeting on 15 June. Several events are expected to have a provisional slot based on whether new events in South Africa and Brazil are considered suitable for inclusion. Four days after finishing second but troubled in the Acropolis Rally (pictured), Citroen’s number two driver Mikko Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen were unhurt after a high speed pre-New Zealand test crash in Italy. Hirvonen had left Greece with a series of unanswered questions about his performance after the Acropolis, notwithstanding that his second place behind teammate Sebastien Loeb was all that his team could ask for. After the Acropolis, Mikko had said that tailing behind not only his team-mate but also the two works Ford drivers in the early stages had not been the plan: “I had wanted to stay in the fight but when the stages dried out (during Friday) I struggled, lost more time and lost my push. I started to hesitate which you never do when you are in the fight for the lead.” Mikko scored only one fastest stage time on the event, and that was on the fast but tactical Bauxites hillclimb stage: “I have to think about why things are not going so well.” When pressed to be more specific, he said “No, I won’t. I know but I will not talk about it. On the next rally I will be faster.” Hopefully the Tuscany crash will not have demoralised Mikko. Event promoters hit with expensive new fee structure 16 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: WRC >>> NEWS