Ford won’t rule out return to wold rallying
Ford’s departure from the WRC might not be forever.
Having ended its 16-year sponsorship agreement with preparation firm M-Sport recently, Ford’s European motor sport manager Gerard Quinn hinted at a possible return when the WRC season drew to a close in Spain in mid-November.
“Ford won’t be in the WRC in 2013, but that’s not to say Ford won’t be in rallying — we will continue to support the drivers of Ford rally cars around the world and who’s to say that, in the future, we won’t step back in,” said Quinn.
Ford’s withdrawal as the result of funding cutbacks in Europe has sent shock waves through the sport and leaves Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport organisation in a frantic search for commercial backing in order to continue in the WRC next season with its event-winning Fiesta World Rally Cars. The team will still enjoy technical support from the Blue Oval.
WEC boost for privateers
The hope of EMP1 privateers competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship have been given a boost for next season.
The FIA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest at Le Mans have revealed that private P1 entrants will get a performance break for next season. The move has the support of the Audi and Toyota factory teams.
WEC general manager Gerard Neveu explained that the plan is to “give a bigger opportunity to the privateers without additional expense”.
A number of ways to make the privateer LMP1s faster are under consideration: lowering the minimum weight of the cars, increasing the fuel capacity and giving them more power with larger-diameter engine air-restrictors.
The update could have been implemented ahead of the final three rounds of this year’s WEC, but the privateers were unable to
agree on a plan of action. Some are already on the minimum weight limit, others could not be fitted with enlarged fuel tanks at short notice and there were concerns from others about increased cooling demands with a power hike.
GT plans open risk of class water
The majority of car manufacturers appear to be against plans to replace the GTE and GT3 categories with a single class for 2015.
The FIA and the Le Mans 24 Hours organiser, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, announced their vision for a new GT class in October. A number of high-profile sports car manufacturers and engineering companies which build GT racers have come out against the plan.
Porsche motor sport boss Hartmut Kristen said: “If you have professional and gentlemen drivers then you need different cars. The requirements for each are totally different. If they do what they are talking about, it will be the end of a GTE-type category.”
Hans Reiter, whose company builds Lamborghini Gallardos for both categories, said: “It is a nonsense. By luck or by judgement we have found some regulations that work and have produced the phenomenally successful GT3 category, so why change it? The categories have different philosophies and require a different approach. What is the point of new rules that would force us to build new cars? Imagine if football changed its rules every other year.”
Reiter thinks there is little support for the new class. “I have spoken to a lot of manufacturers and haven’t found one that is in favour, so what is the point?”
BMW, which is looking at using a version of its V8engined Z4 GT3 car in the American Le Mans Series next year, has suggested that it is in favour of the move to bring the regulations together.
The ACO and the FIA have stated that they want to combine the main tenets of the two classes: the traditional rulebook of the GTE class; and the lower costs of GT3.
The first meeting to discuss the new rules was scheduled for late November.
Ratel hatches new world series concept
Stéphane Patel has reached a draft agreement for FIA World GT Series titles to be awarded across his new GT Sprint Series and the Blancpain Endurance Series.
The Frenchman announced his intention to apply to the FIA for some kind of world title when he announced in July that he would no longer promote the FIA Gil World Championship in 2013. He has now revealed that he has reached an agreement in principle with FIA president Jean Todt for manufacturers’ and teams’ titles to be awarded on the basis of points scored in the 12 races that will make up the sprint and endurance series for GT3 machinery. The only proviso from the FIA is that the seven-round sprint series must incorporate a second race outside Europe in addition to the opener in Abu Dhabi, which is set for February. Patel said that races in India at the Buddh International Circuit and at Interlagos were possibilities.
Patel plans to encourage teams to race in both the sprint and the endurance series and claims that they will only have to change their stickers” to do so. There will be a minimum of one clear weekend between rounds of each.
Kubica eyes rally future
Robert Kubica has moved a step closer to becoming a full-time rally driver.
The ex-Lotus racer has not competed in Formula 1 since the final Grand Prix of 2010 after suffering serious injuries in a crash on a rally in Italy, which he was contesting for fun, during February 2011.
Since a return to Fl is unlikely owing to the lack of mobility in his arms, Kubica is now set on a career in rallying, and tackled two events in a Citroen C4 WRC during November.
“Rallying is one of my favourite forms of motor sport,” said Kubica, who was due to contest Rally di Como and Rallye du Var in the C4.
Kubica’s agreement with Citroen is currently for two rallies only. The Pole has also driven a Subaru Impreza WRC in the past and had tackled selected events in a Renault Clio R3 before his crash in a Skoda Fabia S2000.
Big show to honour Stewart
The Autosport International show, which will take place at Birmingham’s NEC on January 10-13, has announced that it will honour founding member of the Motor Sport magazine Hall of Fame Sir Jackie Stewart.
The three-time Formula 1 World Champion will be there on both public days (12/13) and will talk about his career and work with the Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust. A large display will celebrate his racing life with a selection of his Grand Prix cars including the Stewart-Ford from his days as a team owner.
The rally feature this year will celebrate 2001 World Rally Champion Richard Burns, and the seven-car display will include a Subaru Impreza WRC of the type that he used to seal the crown that year.
Both Derek Bell and Allan McNish, multiple winners of the Le Mans 24 Hours, are also due to attend.