Whatever happened to rallying?

I’m just reading a biography of Bernie Ecclestone. Whether you love him or not, the guy transformed Formula One from a rag-tag bunch of cash-strapped racing engineers, to a global sporting phenomenon.

Sure, he’s done very well out of it. But in the manner of every really successful person, he’s helped many hundreds, maybe thousands, of other people to be more successful and better off along the way; his moves have always looked to have been for the benefit of the sport first, himself second. And Formula One really is a massive global sport, with countries and cities vying to be part of it.

Which got me thinking, whatever happened to the World Rally Championship? The contrast between top level rallying’s decline, and Formula One’s increasing appeal, could not be more marked. A decade ago, I was briefly connected with it, helping the Ford rally team with weather reporting from mid-stage, to help them select the best tyres for the cars. Citroen, Ford, Peugeot, Skoda and Subaru all fielded factory-supported teams, and in the UK we had heroes in Colin McRae and Richard Burns. There were rally reports on TV, and real-time results freely accessible on the web.

Fast forward to today, and just Ford and Citroen are fielding factory-supported teams, alongside a tentative entry from Mini, muscling it out with sponsored privateers. Is it on TV, somewhere among the satellite channels? And who are the drivers? I guess rallying never found its own Bernie Ecclestone.

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