Fiat toont belangstelling voor participatie in het WRC

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Fiat toont belangstelling voor participatie in het WRC

Berichtdoor Sportiva-Italia » Di Aug 18, 2009 23:36

Bron: Italiaspeed.com

Fiat toont belangstelling voor participatie in het WRC
18-08-2009

Fiat heeft belangstelling voor participatie in het WRC (World Rally Championship). Het huidige WRC is niet meer wat het geweest is, met o.a. het vertrek van Subaru en Suzuki, gebrek aan belangstelling vanuit het FIA, oplopende kosten en alles bijelkaar weinig wat een voordeel zou kunnen zijn voor de teams.
Komend jaar komt er mogelijk een Super 2000 Cup, zoals dat nu in het wel populaire IRC gehouden wordt. Het IRC is minder intensief, wordt met standaard fabrieksmateriaal gereden, waardoor dit kampioenschap meer waarde heeft voor de teams. Het FIA heeft ook beslist dat de huidige WRC wagens in 2011 met een 1.6 liter turbo-motor gaan rijden, waardoor het ook meer raakvlakken heeft met het IRC:


It is being reported that Abarth is on the brink of signing up for the FIA World Rally Championship next year a decision that would return the Fiat Group to rallying's pinnacle after a sixteen year absence.
In an interview with the Financial Times yesterday Neil Duncanson, the Chief Executive Officer of series rights owner North One, a British television production company, said: "I’ve got one or two [manufacturers] who I think will come in. I don’t want more than four [manufacturers] because any more than that and they can’t win." Well placed sources have revealed that the two manufacturers eyeing up a step onto the world stage are Fiat and Volkswagen.
Fiat currently competes in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) though its Abarth division and the Super 2000-specification Grande Punto Abarths, which will be in action this weekend during the eighth round of the series, the 39th Barum Czech Rally Zlín. A win last time out on the 50th Rali Vinho Madeira has put Abarth's lead driver Giandomenico Basso back into the fight for the drivers' title although the Scorpion brand has long since given up any hopes of securing the manufacturers' cup.

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Fiat was a prime mover behind the formation of the IRC (winning the inaugural title in 2006 when the Grande Punto Abarth was badged as a Fiat) which is backed by satellite television channel Eurosport and, as well as Abarth, the IRC series sees factory-supported cars from Skoda, Peugeot and Proton in action. While VW has had little success in the World Rally Championship in the past, the Fiat Group would be returning to an arena where it has an amazing win laden history, gained in particular through its Lancia brand which built itself global reputation though an unprecedented winning streak in the world series that netted nine manufacturers titles, including six that came consecutively from 1987 to 1992. Fiat won the last of its three WRC titles in 1980.
A switch to the WRC would be a surprise decision for Fiat as the series has entered into a rapid decline in recent years. Poor promotion and organisation, a lack of interest from the FIA, spiralling costs and a calendar that takes in a swage of events that are both irrelevant to manufacturers and that have had their unique formats throttled, have all added up to see the championship fade away from public interest. At the end of last season Subaru and Suzuki quit the WRC leaving just Ford and Citroën as manufacturers involved. The most important event on the calendar, the Rallye Monte Carlo, dumped the WRC at the end of 2008 to switch to the IRC, and after a highly-successful first year in the IRC when, free from the fetters of the WRC, it was able to rekindle much of its traditional spirit. The prestigious event has recently confirmed that it will also count for the upstart series again in 2010.

With little in interest being shown in the WRC from manufacturers and the major expense of building cars to the regulations the series has been forced to swallow its pride and take a close look at the hugely successful new breed of lower-cost Super 2000 cars which combine a normally-aspirated 2.0 litre engine with a stock four-wheel-drive transmission system and limited electronic driver aids. On June 25 the FIA announced that for 2010 it will form a "Super 2000 Cup" in the WRC calendar for which teams will need to register and contest at least seven events, with one of these being located outside Europe. At the same time the FIA confirmed that the introduction of the new generation of WRC machines will be brought forward to 2011. These cars will feature a 1.6 litre turbo engine and incorporate many aspects of the Super 2000 cars.
Despite the extra costs of competing in the WRC compared to the IRC, Duncanson sees the much lower costs of the WRC versus F1 as being a strong factor in attracting manufacturers, as well as the visual similarities between the rally cars and those that sit in the showrooms. "The manufacturers find themselves in a much better position because we are selling the real cars," he told FT.
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