There’s no hiding from the truth that the World Rally Championship is getting into a vital section because it needs to ascertain its future, enhance its attraction and entice extra producers. And final weekend’s Acropolis Rally gave each the sequence and the FIA each incentive to make sure that its pathway is outlined when the governing physique’s president Mohammed Ben Sulayem uttered the phrases nearly all of rally followers have been wishing to listen to ever since 2008.
Talking at a media spherical desk within the build-up to the Greek occasion, Ben Sulayem revealed that Subaru is considering a return to the WRC.
The Japanese producer is synonymous with rallying. Its Impreza helped to forge cult heroes Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Petter Solberg, who gained drivers’ titles with the marque in 1995, 2001 and 2003 respectively so as to add to producers’ crowns in 1995-97. However Subaru has been absent from rallying’s prime tier since pulling out on the top of the worldwide monetary disaster in 2008.
“It’s not a secret I had a superb assembly with Mr Akio Toyoda, and I requested him what we are able to do to draw producers to the WRC and I listened to somebody who’s passionate – and he talked about Subaru,” recounted Ben Sulayem of his chat with the Toyota chairman on the Le Mans 24 Hours in June.
“They [Toyota] personal a share of Subaru and they’re going to help an initiative of Subaru getting into. And I really feel somebody like him, when he speaks, he speaks with confidence. I hope that a few of that may come.”
Toyoda is a passionate supporter of the WRC and advised Autosport eventually month’s Rally Finland that he’s actively making an attempt to encourage extra producers to affix a championship through which Toyota has change into the benchmark staff since its re-entry in 2017. The fascinating twist to that is Ben Sulayem suggesting that Toyota may provide an engine to Subaru, which doesn’t have an eligible block in its vary.
However expectations needs to be tempered at this level, and there’s loads to play out earlier than this dream ticket turns into actuality.
FIA President Ben Sulayem revealed in Greece that his dialog with Toyoda had touched on Subaru
Picture by: McKlein / Motorsport Images
Realistically it’s 2027, when the WRC is predicted to launch new rules, that will provide a window for Subaru ought to the challenge obtain a inexperienced mild. Whereas these 2027 WRC rules are but to be revealed, Autosport has been advised by the FIA that hybrid-powered cars using sustainable fuel will continue, with a transfer to full electrical or hydrogen energy anticipated to be dominated out.
Toyota issued the next assertion to Autosport in response to Ben Sulayem’s feedback: “It’s not a secret that our chairman, along with his profound ardour for rallying, is keen to see extra producers getting into the WRC. If Subaru had been to return to the WRC it might convey again an iconic rallying model for the championship’s fashionable period, and for us, to be joined by a fellow Japanese producer would make the competitors extra thrilling and stronger.
“Nonetheless, any such determination is for the Subaru board and president to make, naturally in dialogue with related stakeholders.”
In my view, Ben Sulayem shouldn’t have dropped this bombshell simply but, however waited till the 2027 rules have been formalised. This information will seemingly create much more stress on Subaru to make this occur, and it may fairly conceivably backfire, damaging any progress made to this point.
No matter occurs, it’s all out within the open now. And Ben Sulayem’s phrases will sharpen the minds of the important thing stakeholders to make sure that the WRC has a transparent pathway that maximises promotion and return on funding for producers
There may be in fact the prospect that the extremely Positive response from followers could possibly be nicely acquired: Subaru topped an Autosport social media ballot in Could asking readers which marque they wish to see be part of the WRC. The rally group needs this.
No matter occurs, it’s all out within the open now, and Ben Sulayem’s phrases will sharpen the minds of the important thing stakeholders to make sure that the WRC has a transparent pathway that maximises promotion and return on funding for producers. This will probably be essential to not solely entice Subaru and different marques but additionally maintain Toyota, Hyundai and Ford (by M-Sport) within the championship.
This season the WRC and FIA have are available for criticism from drivers, groups and followers over a perceived diminishing appeal and lack of success of the Rally1 regulations launched final yr. There isn’t any doubt that the WRC has enormous potential: the Rally1 hybrid automobiles are unimaginable to observe, the competitors is shut, they’re pioneering sustainable gas expertise, and they’re much safer than their predecessors.
The WRC recognises that change is required to entice the likes of Subaru again in, notably given the prices of the Rally1 automobiles
Picture by: Toyota Racing
However the FIA openly admits that the cars are too expensive, leading to diminished entries. Ben Sulayem stated himself that higher promotion is vital, and he’s appropriate, with System 1’s latest growth being one of the best instance.
There may be mild on the finish of the tunnel, nonetheless. To their credit score, WRC Promoter and the FIA have fronted as much as this criticism and are taking motion.
In the course of the Acropolis Rally weekend, WRC Promoter revealed that, after consulting drivers and groups, a raft of adjustments to enhance the championship’s attraction including event format changes will be discussed throughout a WRC Fee assembly subsequent week. Likewise, the FIA is making progress on the technical rules in an try and convey Rally1 prices down.
If these actions bear fruit, then the possibilities of a Subaru return can solely improve.
A WRC return for Subaru would go down a deal with, however there’s a whole lot of work to be carried out first
Picture by: Sutton Photographs