The WRC welcomed an all-new concept to the championship last weekend with the inaugural running of the Central European Rally, which saw rallying’s top tier host an event in three countries for the first time.
The Central European Rally concept, which will return in 2024, comprised 18 asphalt stages held in the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany. The event was well received by the championship and teams as fans turned out in their droves to witness the action. However, organisers were forced to cancel a stage due to spectators standing in dangerous positions.
While the rally was a success in taking the WRC to three nations of rally-mad supporters, the itinerary which included 1380 kilometres of road section [the highest of the season] to complete 310km of stages has been questioned by drivers. Perhaps the biggest talking point was a three-and-a-half hour trip from Passau to Prague for the ceremonial start and then 11kms of super special stages, before heading back to the Passau service park. Crews then returned back to the Czech Republic for Friday’s stages.
“It is the first time here and there are things you can debrief and make better, like for sure the road sections and make a better itinerary,” said Toyota’s Sebastien Ogier.
“It is really too long and it makes no sense and honestly not fitting what we need to achieve. We try to sell commercially that we are using hybrid cars but if you make a rally that is 1600km it is not right. It has to be better.”
M-Sport’s Ott Tanak added: “The format is not better than a normal rally. We have been speaking for a long time about which direction it should go and it is worse.”
Rally winner Thierry Neuville acknowledged the itinerary concerns but admitted he was happy to drive the distance given the amount of fans that had turned out to follow the cars. He would like to see more anti-cut devices introduced next year.
Photo by: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1
“The rally was nice but the weather was shit so it made it very challenging and maybe for next year we need to put more anti-cut devices in place if the rain is coming,” said Neuville.
“There is a bit of a job to do on that side but generally I’m not against driving a lot of road actions if we see that amount of spectators. The enthusiasm of the spectators was great and the support. It was a great spectacle, so I don’t mind doing a lot of…