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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Did the WRC’s shorter sprint-style format work?

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Now that the mud has settled on an occasion that delivered the joint-closest end in WRC historical past, the championship and the FIA will consider how the 48-hour, 266.12km format carried out.

This trial was the most recent step the WRC is enterprise to enhance its general attraction by providing occasion organisers extra choices in the case of rally codecs, as a substitute of the 300 kilometre-plus distance that has turn into the norm in recent times. The opposite by-product of a shorter occasion additionally can be a slight cost-saving for teams, with personnel required to be on website later than regular.

It’s hoped that, ranging from subsequent yr, the calendar will present the WRC extra storytelling choices. The shorter idea trialled in Sardinia could also be complemented by the prospect of endurance rallies overlaying greater than 5 days, along with the standard three or four-day format. It might be truthful to recommend the bulk agree this is able to be a step ahead for the WRC.

This yr’s Rally Sardinia was 54km shorter than 2023’s occasion, comprising 16 levels in comparison with the 19 levels of 12 months in the past. The most important modifications have been round Friday, which hosted shakedown and 4 levels. Crews tackled eight exams on Saturday, then concluded with 4 levels and a noon end on Sunday. In reality, the occasion was extra of a case of cramming an virtually regular rally into 48 hours.

How did the format carry out?

Any fears that the idea would supply much less motion or drama have been rapidly quashed. The rally was as brutal as ever, offering loads of storylines earlier than it delivered one of the vital dramatic climaxes in WRC historical past as Ott Tanak pipped Sebastien Ogier to victory by 0.2s in a final stage thriller.

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PLUS: How Sardinia served up a WRC sprint surprise for Tanak

It might be unfair to recommend that unbelievable end was a direct results of the format, as Ogier was delayed by a puncture. However actually, the overwhelming feeling within the service park was that the present nonetheless met the requirements of a conventional rally.

Sardinia served up motion and pleasure aplenty into its shorter format

Photograph by: Crimson Bull Content material Pool

“I don’t know if this was the perfect rally to attempt it on, however the idea was nonetheless an excellent one,” stated Toyota’s Elfyn Evans. “I believe the format works and I don’t suppose anyone will really feel short-changed, though there was half a day much less.”

On the entire, there’s quite a lot of assist from stakeholders for the idea of getting a rally begin on Friday afternoon and end by Sunday lunchtime. The FIA has already given the format a thumbs up, stating that it has potential for the long run.

“I believe the idea has been good and I believe just about everybody turned up a day later than they’d usually, and the rally nonetheless appears like a troublesome spherical of the WRC,” FIA street sport director Andrew Wheatley informed Autosport.

“I don’t suppose we are able to do it in every single place, and perhaps we shouldn’t do it in every single place, however it’s a course of that up to now has been fairly profitable. The goal is to offer the organisers the chance to do one thing barely completely different and the idea has proven that it’s got potential.”

However Sardinia did spotlight areas for enchancment, ought to different occasions undertake this format sooner or later. That stated, among the criticisms levied have been geared toward occasion particular circumstances that created an uncommon itinerary, as Evans highlighted.

As an alternative of the standard three- or four-stage morning and afternoon loops, punctuated by a service, the itinerary on Friday and Saturday featured a pair of levels repeated. These have been break up by regroups or a tyre-fitting zone (on Saturday), slightly than a service.

This was enforced, to permit the whole 81-car discipline to finish these levels earlier than restarting the loop once more. Whereas this was helpful for followers, as they may catch extra glimpses of the vehicles in motion, it did lengthen the times for the crews and groups.

Saturday highlighted the difficulty. Crews had roughly 4 hours of sleep on Friday night time, earlier than having to set off from the Alghero service park to succeed in the primary stage that began at 7:41am, whereas the final check started at 6:10pm.

Long days for the crews were none too popular

Lengthy days for the crews have been none too widespread

Photograph by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Straightforward fixes for subsequent time?

Factoring within the street part from service to the levels and the return, it was roughly a 14-hour day within the automotive, which crews highlighted as a priority. It’s understood {that a} lack of marshals on the island meant the itinerary was compromised, which will be simply resolved sooner or later ought to the format be repeated.

“We don’t need each rally to be brief and we don’t have to do 300 kilometres for the sake of doing 300 kilometres,” M-Sport workforce principal Richard Millener informed Autosport. “It was one other unbelievable rally with a special format, and it has labored properly.

“The one tweak I’d make is to run it on occasions that may run a extra conventional three- or four-stage loop, then a service. I believe the rationale for the regroups right here is the variety of marshals on the island after which we had quite a lot of vehicles right here, in order that they must all get via the levels after which go round once more.

“It’s a sporting problem that we are able to fairly simply clear up, which is able to shorten the day for us which will probably be nice.”

Toyota workforce principal Jari-Matti Latvala praised the idea, however joined Millener’s name for “a service subsequent yr slightly than a 15-minute tyre-fitting zone” to be added, which may have prevented Takamoto Katsuta retiring from the rally after struggling an oil leak that could not be fastened throughout a tyre-fitting zone.

Katsuta himself highlighted that the itinerary was powerful on each the crews and the automotive, however once more this criticism wasn’t targeted on the shorter rally idea itself.

“In this sort of rally, I don’t perceive why we don’t have a noon service as a result of it is vitally essential,” stated the Japanese. “And on the similar time, drivers and co-drivers, we don’t have time to eat and no time to relaxation. An entire day within the automotive isn’t good. It was very tough situations and really powerful for the automotive.”

It is a view echoed by Hyundai driver Dani Sordo, who added: “I believe the format is sweet, however I believe you will need to handle the timings higher.”

Could Katsuta's retirement have been avoided by scheduling a service into Saturday's itinerary?

Might Katsuta’s retirement have been prevented by scheduling a service into Saturday’s itinerary?

Photograph by: Toyota Racing

Meals for thought

M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux was maybe essentially the most crucial of the format. He has known as for longer levels which might be befitting of the WRC, as a substitute of contesting extra levels of shorter distances.

Once more, the Frenchman’s criticisms are largely aimed on the itinerary that created longer-than-average days, and whereas Fourmaux is worried about crews and groups welfare, his solutions for enhancements have the followers and the general present at coronary heart.

“I don’t prefer it as a result of we don’t have extra time for the spectators,” he informed Autosport. “It’s a large rush for 2 and a half days and now we have even much less sleep than earlier than.

“Alex [Coria, co-driver] had solely 4 hours sleep on Friday night forward of the Saturday which was actually lengthy day. I wish to have a rally the place we do levels all of the night time. In fact, if in case you have levels within the night time, we’d stay awake a lot.

“However when you have got a final stage at 7pm and the subsequent one is 7am, individuals don’t see the problem behind that. We now have all of the street sections again to the service park then now we have to debrief with the workforce, after which fall asleep and get up actually early as a result of now we have an extended street part to the primary stage.

“Individuals don’t actually see that. But when we had a stage at midnight, the followers could be like ‘woah’. That may be cool.

“In the event that they need to shorten the rallies, it could be good if we had longer levels. That is the World Rally Championship, not a regional rally championship.

Fourmaux believes longer stages are necessary to add prestige to the WRC

Fourmaux believes longer levels are vital so as to add status to the WRC

Photograph by: M-Sport

“Within the WRC, levels ought to 50km, 40km or 30km. We now have too many levels which might be 12km for instance. For me, we should always have longer levels, after which we wouldn’t must do the identical quantity of levels, so it could take much less time, however we nonetheless do the identical quantity of kilometres.”

Fourmaux’s solutions are actually meals for thought for organisers transferring ahead. However because of this trials of codecs are undertaken. Formulation 1 supplied an ideal instance when it debuted its elimination qualifying system on the 2016 Australian Grand Prix. It was rapidly discovered to be too complicated and dropped after two races, as F1 returned to the format it nonetheless makes use of at this time.

The lesson discovered from Sardinia is the 48-hour format has actual potential. However equally, it wants an itinerary to swimsuit.

Will we see a repeat of the shorter format in future?

Will we see a repeat of the shorter format in future?

Photograph by: Crimson Bull Content material Pool

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