Today there has been a whirlwind of World RallyCross news. Despite rumours around the RX paddock that Peugeot-Hansen team may pull out, apparently unhappy about the total domination of one team. Ironically coming from a team with Sebastien Loeb in. They have proudly announced that they will commit to another year in the action packed sport, along with Sebastien
That was later followed by the shock announcement that Ken Block’s Ford Hoonigan team will pull out of the Championship at the end of the season. Making Cape town their last World RX round.
“Although we have thoroughly enjoyed competing in the exciting FIA World Rallycross Championship, it’s a natural time for us to take a break as the future of the series takes shape,” said Dave Pericak, Global Director of Ford Performance on motorsport.com
Paul Bellamy, World RX Managing Director for IMG, concluded: “We are delighted that Peugeot and Sebastien Loeb will increase its involvement in World RX next season although we were disappointed to hear the news that Ford will withdraw from 2018 due to a change in company strategy.”
To me there is a stand out quote there. “A change in company strategy.”
Over in the WRC. We are currently awaiting some big news. Where will Sebastien Ogier go? Citroen are making a lot of noise about how their main priority is to sign Ogier for 2018, to have the best chance of getting back on top. However Ogier himself has said he would prefer to stay with his current team. Rather than starting all over again with a new car/team. But will only stay with M-Sport if Ford or a major title sponsor back his team, with a big enough budget to stay at the top.
Now technically, Ford are still in WRC to a degree. They give M-Sport ‘Technical support’ no one seems to really know what that means. But what we do know is that M-Sport get brand new Fiesta body shells and there is still, a very large Blue oval badge above the entrance of M-Sport’s Service and hospitality unit. And on the cars! To the wider public, when M-Sport win, they see a Ford fiesta on the top podium. So why should Ford spend millions on success that it gets for free?
Simply because, on a shoe string ‘private’ teams budget, they wont keep up with the competition in years to come. Right now, M-Sport have a once in a life time chance of massive success. With a very good chance of taking both Manufacturers & Drivers titles. They have proven they have one of the best cars & the best drivers in the sport. M-Sport team are a success story waiting to happen, presented on a silver plate. To keep that success, rate of development & the best driver of this generation for the future, all Ford have to do is purchase it. They would be crazy not to take up this amazing opportunity. So could this be the “change in company strategy” that they are talking about?
The number one question any manufacturer will ask before spending millions of its marketing budget.. World RX’s massive growth spurt seems to have stalled a little this year. Although for RX an electric future isn’t far away, which is what many car manufacturers will soon be asking for of any championship. Dave Pericak of Global Director of Ford Performance also said on Motorsport-News.com “To continue in WRX would have required the development of a new race car, and with so much discussion happening around the future of rallycross from a powertrain package standpoint, it made sense for us to pause until it’s better defined.”
So what about the present? According to a source I spoke too at Lydden hill, World RX promoters IMG narrowly missing out on a broadcast contract with Channel 5 here in UK for this season. Motorsport TV channel which, despite the great coverage, isn’t a free to air, main stream channel and has no doubt missed out on a few million viewers. Especially with its live Sunday semi’s & Final race broadcast. Where as WRC at present continues to grow. In both audience numbers and TV hours on main stream & pay-to-view channels. With the first 7 rounds of 2017 gaining an increase of 17% over last year, attracting a total of 463.45 million world wide. With brand new regulations ‘defined’ and in place for the next few seasons to come – Which already here proven a success. The value for Ford to return to the WRC is far greater than ever before, especially compared to when they left back in 2012.
Ogier said that he will make his decision by the end of September so he can be better prepared for the 2018 season ahead. As we are now 4 days into October, It’s possible the decision has been made behind closed doors. Could a “change in company strategy.” bring Ford back to WRC once again. For M-Sport’s sake, I hope so.