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Revhead Ramblings: What Ever Happened to Rallying?

Rallying captured the hearts and minds of petrol heads for generations, it was the birth place of some of the most influential technological breakthroughs in the automotive world. In the face of mortal danger, you had two drivers implicitly trusting each other as they navigate tight, ragged roads in gorgeous natural environments. Yet, there’s something wrong.

Gone are the nail biting battles between Audi and Lancia, it’s not that the drivers are any less daring or the tracks are tame; it’s just lost its appeal thanks to lacklustre marketing, something it definitely deserves back.

The Cars Are Too Focused

When you think of classic rally cars, the Audi Quattro, Lancia Stratos, Escort MK II and original Mini Cooper should come to mind. These are without question the greatest race cars we’ve ever seen. The best part though? When they were racing, you could pop down to your local car dealership and pick one up for yourself.

While the ones on TV may have had beefier tyres and some suspension modifications, they were the same vehicle from the ground up. Today’s vehicles may look like our humble factory produced models, but they’re actually bespoke from the wheels up, with just a body to resemble the standard car.

The Drivers Aren’t The Same

This issue is particularly relevant for the British, while France is under the ‘Loeb Effect’, we’ve not really got a stand out driver to cheer on. Gone are the days of Richard Burns and Colin McRae, the loss of them and their mainstream media attracting star quality is another reason for the sports unfortunate demise.

That’s not to say the drivers of today aren’t skilled, they’re piloting cars that are far quicker than anything in the 80’s, but I’d rather see a Lancia flick its tail out than Citroen shave two tenths of a second from its lap time with a re-designed front splitter. We need characters behind the wheel, someone who isn’t scared to say how they feel, rather than some PR controlled robot reciting a script.

It Hasn’t Embraced New Media

The only way I can watch WRC now is to either pay for BT Sport or visit each stage and be there to enjoy the action. Why does F1 get vast amounts of coverage but Rallying doesn’t? In an age where social media is king, there simply isn’t enough engagement with fans. To use them as an example again, Formula 1 has an unbelievable social media presence, they’re constantly uploading exclusive interviews and updates surrounding the teams and cars.

This keeps the fans both engaged and interested. Obviously rules and regulations have changed considerably since the McRae era, centralised servicing and shorter yet fewer stages; this was to make the competition more TV friendly, ironically, they’ve lost TV coverage.

So, To Make Rallying Great Again, What Needs to Change?

Firstly, they need to bring back homologated cars and make them accessible for the general public. Secondly and most importantly, rallies need to feel like adventures again, drones covering long spans of twisting forest dirt roads would be a great way to bring it into the 21st century for example.

This certainly wouldn’t be an overnight fix, but it’s completely necessary to bring rallying back to the forefront of the automotive world; its rightful place.

To ensure you don’t miss out on any of Alex’s ‘Revhead Ramblings‘ be sure to follow him on Twitter at @AlexClickDealer!

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