WRC » 21 December 2006
Q&A: Ken Rees (Subaru) - EXCLUSIVE.
We sell hospitality now to get people in. A good example was Finland this year - it was a tremendous event, it got 80,000 people through the service park and it is now a big show and it has to look right. The demands have gone from just finding quick lay-bys and petrol stations at the side of the road, to having an excellent service park with all the facilities close to the stages and stuff like that. That side has changed a lot. The routes are now a lot more complex too - they are closer to the cities, where you can go out do the stages and come back to you're central service point. Over the years it has changed. It is much more of a big show now - a big circus travelling the world, the night stages have gone; it is now more three one-day sprints. But still it is very demanding on drivers, very good for spectators because the stages are close. It has changed, but it has changed for the good.
The provisional itinerary for the Rallye Monte Carlo next year is quite controversial isn't it? As it really breaks the mould of what a modern WRC event should be, with night stages, and virtually no action on Sunday.
It is very controversial, the whole event at the moment, as it is the Monte Carlo Rally, based in France and Valence, which is 400 kilometres from Monte Carlo.
The first point is: it is trying to get FIA approval to start the event on Thursday evening with two stages in the dark. Then it is a big day Friday and an early finish Saturday, with a 45 minute service in Valence and then everybody going down to Monte Carlo for basically a 3 kilometre sprint, twice around part of the Formula One circuit. They are going away from the normal approved format of the championship. They are still trying to get approval for the Thursday night stages and are still trying to get extra kilometres in, because they are short of their kilometres. Again is it going to be four legs? Do you count Thursday's night as leg 1 and then Friday and Saturday, as leg 2 and 3? What is Sunday? Is it just a showpiece around the circuit or is it going to be a stage? It is not yet finalised by a long way. They are still trying to get things together. They are a little bit behind on that, whereas if you look at Sweden, Norway, Mexico and Portugal, we probably had the routes and rally guide 1 issued a while back. They are well ahead. We are just waiting to get Monte Carlo into place at the moment.
Do you think the Monte Carlo showpiece will work, because the Cyprus Down Town Special, turned out to be a bit of a farce?
[long pause] Yeah… Cyprus tried hard, they put a lot of effort into it, but unfortunately I think they should have had an organising committee behind it, who worked a lot harder at it, rather than one man, namely the Clerk of the Course, who took it upon himself to run it. In hindsight it shouldn't have run, it was dangerous and it didn't run competitively in the end.
Monte Carlo they are use to a grand prix there. They will run it and run it right, without a doubt. Whether it is a showpiece or not is another thing. We will have to see whether it is a competitive stage or whether it is showpiece. As I say, until they make their mind up we don't know.
Is there a typical timeframe for an average event, in terms of when everything has to leave the team's base to getting to the event and then getting everything set-up prior to the rally?
Well it depends on where we are. If we are talking about a 'local event' - close by in Europe - everything will leave generally on a Friday to be in place by Sunday night. The vehicles will be parked up and then ready for Monday morning. If it is further a field, somewhere like Greece, we will set off mid-week, again to have everything in place - a five-day drive for the trucks. The recce team will leave on Sunday to get there on Monday.
For long haul, it will depend, on whether you are looking at Australia or New Zealand. The cars will probably fly a week before - if they need to be there on a Wednesday they will fly the Wednesday before to get there. So, long haul you look 10 days before the event for personnel and freight staff, whereas it starts leaving the week before on European events.
So although when you look at it on TV it is a three-day event – it is a lot more than that. People are gone 10 days before and they come back 3 or 4 days after. One event rolls into another. Take the latter half of the 2006 season - we have got some people that are away 9 or 10 weeks from home in one way or another travelling, because there is the logistics of getting from Cyprus to Turkey and so on. There is a lot going on that is not seen on the television.
Lots of days owed in lieu then?
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