The World Rally Championship has taken a beating in recent years, not least with the formation of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, or IRC, taking away a lot of teams and host countries. In such a scenario, it is in the best interests of the FIA to look at bringing the World Rally Championship, or WRC as it’s known, to India.
Here’s why it would work:
Firstly, India has a rich rallying heritage. Lets never forget the Great Desert Himalayan, a stellar event through the 1980s which attracted top talents from across the globe, for its combination of unpredictable conditions, varying topography and of course the lure of the mystique of India, which saw many teams staying on after the event to savour the sights and sounds of all India has to offer. The Raid de Himalaya and Desert Storm do continue the tradition somewhat, but a raid is a little bit different from the WRC format.
In the WRC, the distances are limited, with the special stages accounting for a competitive distance of about 300 kilometres. Also, a super special stage, usually run in a controlled environment like a stadium with high spectator attendance is part of the event.
Call it personal preference if you will, but watching a rally car in full flight is one of the most thrilling sights in motorsport. That the cars externally resemble road cars is an added advantage to the manufacturers actually, since the layman can make an immediate visual connect to the cars he sees on the road.
With India’s burgeoning car market, notably the B-segment, and some big ticket sponsors like telecoms and petroleum companies, the WRC would do well in India. Skoda already has a rally version of the Fabia, VW are working on a Golf / Polo WRC, Hyundai has rally experience with the Accent, and could prepare an i20 WRC, Ford already has the new Fiesta WRC ready to go, Suzuki has rallied the SX4 previously.
Yes, international rallying has been tried before, with the APRC, and yes, it didn’t go off particularly well, but the lessons have been learned. It is up to organizers to ensure the event is conducted to the best international standards.
In this decade, the time is ripe for World Rallying in India. And with promising young Indians already making waves on the world stage, it would be tragic if the opportunity were lost.