Rally GB criticised for being too long

Group Rallying Editor

FIA rally director Jarmo Mahonen has criticised Wales Rally GB and other events in the World Rally Championship for being too long and not in-keeping with what the governing body wants from modern events.

Mahonen, who retires from the FIA at the end of the year, said the time had come to return to a more formulaic, standardised format for WRC rounds.

The Finn said those favouring a return to the endurance element of the sport should seek it from the FIA’s World Cup for Cross Country Rallies.

Mahonen told Motorsport News: “I’m sorry to say this, but in the UK, how long shall we allow it that the events dictate the format?

“In Wales we had a day of 140km (87 miles) and a long time [with no service] and on the first day, no service at all. I fully understand the reason behind it, Wales is coming with the money, but at our end, what shall we do, do we just accept it?

“We have given freedom to the organisers to come with their strengths and do the rallies as they would like to have it, but I have to say that we have failed.

“In some cases it works, in some cases it doesn’t, but we need standardisation for the rallies.”

Mahonen wants service parks to be used more. Pic: LAT

Mahonen also said World Rallies must utilise the service park more often, hitting out at systems such as remote tyre fitting zones.

“I’m not in favour of remote services,” added Mahonen. “We have to remember we are building this championship for the manufacturers and when you go to the service park, the manufacturers are investing millions in the hospitality, but you go out in the morning and come back late in the evening. What can you do with the guests?

“Today’s rallies should be compact and they need a heart and that heart is the service park, where entertainment is offered. We started this centralised service in Finland because we know the city people, they don’t go to forests, so we build the service for them to enjoy the atmosphere for the rally.”

Central locations are a must-have, according to Mahonen. Pic: LAT

Mahonen was also critical of the length of road sections on some rounds, once again he singled Britain out for disapproval. This year’s Rally GB comprised a 922-mile route, of which 20.6 per cent was competitive.

“The stage mileage should be 25 per cent of the total route, we see some of the events which are getting under or close to 20 per cent in the UK and in Sweden and this is touring, it’s not rallying any more,” he said.

Rally GB route co-ordinator Andrew Kellitt is well acquainted with the Mahonen argument. He told MN: “I can completely see Jarmo’s point, but the issue we have is one of a lack of a big piece of flat, hard-standing in the right area [for a service park]. We’ve tried basing the event in Builth Wells, which is closer to the stages and gets us the right ratio of competitive to road miles, but there’s not a very big population base there and the teams didn’t want to stay in the area.”

Endurance stages, like the one used in Mexico, are in spotlight. Pic: LAT

Mahonen also said that longer, endurance-style stages are not relevant to modern rallying.

“My personal thoughts about this are that you have [more] 10km (six-mile) stages,” he said. “Then you have lots of stages generating lots of news for social media. You remember we talked about the 80km (50-mile) stage in Mexico last year? What happened in that stage? Nothing and the people switched off because they were bored.

“I say rallying has come through evolution, we can’t go back to the old times. Rallying how we used to know it, it doesn’t exist anymore. This is racing on gravel. And these cars are not made for endurance.”

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