Ford is considering pulling out of the World Rally Championship, and switching over to the rival Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
Gerard Quinn, in charge of Ford’s European Motorsport activities, said: “Do they realise we’re six months from the start of the new season with no promoter,” said Quinn. “It took [former promoter] North One Sport two years to get fully up to speed with the job and the lack of news from Friday is a major concern for me and it obviously has huge implications.”
The FIA has also introduced new legislation which requires the event promoters of the WRC to pay for the TV production, which was previously being handled by North One. This has added tremendously to the event fees, which is putting a lot of strain on sporting clubs budgets as they already struggle with depleting sponsorship. The WRC now risks losing not just manufacturer teams but events as well, which would be disastrous for the championship.
Prodrive’s David Richards, an experienced hand in global motorsport, notably rallying, was critical of the FIA. “Surely somebody has to stand up and take responsibility, but I don’t see any of that. I just see, deferral, deferral. It’s the FIA’s championship, but it’s being squandered at the moment.”
Elaborating on Ford’s plans, Quinn said: “The IRC is a classic example of how a championship can be run effectively and deliver on its promises,” Quinn added. “The IRC has made huge progress in the last few years and the key thing is that it’s on television and it’s available to the wider public through the internet and through social media. It’s straightforward and successful.
“Make no mistake, Ford is fully committed to WRC and I hate to think of deserting a sinking ship. The WRC is very important to us as a manufacturer, however, after next year’s WRC we will look at our options and one of those options is IRC.”
If Ford were indeed to exit the WRC, it would leave the championship with a single manufacturer entry in Citroen. Presently, Mini is also contesting select rounds of the WRC, but with privateer entries. The WRC has seen manufacturer teams exit in large numbers in the last decade, with Subaru, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Suzuki, Hyundai and Skoda all calling time on the championship. The WRC is still riding on hope with Volkswagen firming up their plans to enter the fray with its Polo WRC, but that will not be until 2013, with a few events planned. VW will only contest the full WRC from 2014. If Ford were to exit by then, it would leave little incentive for other manufacturers to continue.