Honda website
Honda website

SEPTEMBER 16, 2003

Will F1 gain anything from WRC fall-out?

The worlds of Formula 1 and the World Rally Championship have few overlaps. David Richards is the boss of BAR, he oversees the Subaru World Rally Team and is the man who deals with some of the commercial issues in rallying; the FIA regulates both series; and some of the manufacturers compete in both but otherwise the two series cohabit without much overlap.

There are currently big problems in the WRC with a major clash between the federation and the manufacturers over the way the sport is administered and who makes the decisions.

The FIA has recently increased the WRC calendar from 14 to 16 events and, as a result of that, has instructed teams that they must limit the number of cars and equipment being taken to each event. This has led to a situation in which several of the manufacturers are talking of pulling out of the WRC. It is said that Hyundai and Ford are the two companies thought most likely to pull out.

The FIA's line appears to be that it runs the championship and if the manufacturers do not like that they should look elsewhere for their sporting activities. In theory this might push some towards Formula 1 but the reality is that F1 is now so expensive that none of the WRC manufacturers are very likely to make such a move.

Peugeot has already tried F1 and failed dramatically and its sister company Citroen will have learned from that. Mitsubishi is controlled by DaimlerChrysler and it makes no sense to compete with Mercedes-Benz; Ford has Jaguar in F1 and has a low-key involvement with Jordan; Subaru is partially owned by General Motors, which shows no interest in F1 and Skoda is a Volkswagen brand and if the German firm were going to enter F1 it would almost certainly use the Audi brand.

The interesting one is Hyundai but the Korean firm has not done well in the WRC and it is less than a month since the management of the company was changed and so it is still a bit early for new policies. In the past Hyundai expressed an interest in F1 on several occasions and was even rumored to have had an Formula 1 prototype engine on the test beds in the late 1990s. It was involved in a plan to build a racing circuit in Korea.

It has ambitions to become a world class car company and its sales are booming. Hyundai is pushing hard to expand its overseas operations with the stated aim being to become one of the top five car companies in the world by 2010.