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Old 01-14-2009, 08:34 AM   #1
Weasel 555
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Rally Stuff WRC: Manufacturers given 'reasons to get out'

The blame for the withdrawal of both Subaru and Suzuki from the World Rally Championship at the end of last year can be laid squarely at the feet of organisers the FIA, argues David Richards.

Richards' independent engineering concern Prodrive masterminded Subaru's WRC challenge from 1989 until the end of last season when the Japanese car maker suddenly announced it was pulling the plug on the project.

That, allied with Suzuki having similarly quit just days earlier, has left just two works manufacturers left in the form of Citroën and Ford – and the former WRC-winning co-driver suggests that in searching for reasons why, the governing body should look within.

“It's a very difficult period of transition at the moment as we look to the new regulations in 2010,” Richards acknowledged, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio. “The instability has been created by the championship itself I would suggest – over the last few years we've had this debate over what the cars should be, we've had uncertainty about the calendar, we've had so many difficult question marks, and that leaves everybody with reasons to get out.

“That is the worst and the last thing you ever need to do in any championship. You've got to have commitments to people; you've got to have definitive regulations and definitive calendars that work in marketing terms.”

The Welshman added that the new Super 2000-spec being introduced in a year's time is ‘not the answer in itself' – and insisted that the solution lies in treating the sport far more like an actual sport, and less as a ‘political brick bat'.

“What's being proposed at the moment is a derivative of Super 2000,” the 56-year-old explained. “That's not the answer in itself – it's [about] a whole raft of issues that have to be focussed upon a far more commercial approach.

“The World Rally Championship for far too long has been a political brick bat, and there's no bigger and better example than the way the events are chosen today. Do you believe that Bernie Ecclestone would choose not the best grands prix in the world or the ones that could afford to promote themselves better than anybody else or just go to places for political reasons? No, he wouldn't, of course he wouldn't.”


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Old 01-14-2009, 09:09 AM   #2
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WRC got to big for it britches years ago...asking F1 money to try and renew the SpeedTV contract was ridiculous.

just my humble opinion.
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Old 01-14-2009, 09:39 AM   #3
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WRC got to big for it britches years ago...asking F1 money to try and renew the SpeedTV contract was ridiculous.

just my humble opinion.
I always wondered why WRC coverage was dropped from Speed.... WRC wanted too much??
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Old 01-14-2009, 11:42 AM   #4
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I don't think it was WRC that wanted to much, but the European TV company that had the rights to it. Which I believe is Eurosport...
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Old 01-14-2009, 12:19 PM   #5
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They blew it in the early 2000s; adopting too many rounds that mimicked Acropolis, requiring 2 car teams, messing with the calendar to put off classic rounds that establish the series and finally messing with the cars. While these can be argued as evolution, there so little predictability with FIA decisions that taken as a whole the entire operation is too erratic. I don't know how much Richards is to blame; there were high hopes around 2001 when he was supposed to be in charge. The problem was he really wasn't, and rules seemed to change based on whims and reactions. The 2010 cars are not established; Wilson's on record saying the Focus could easily soldier into 2011 or later given the scatterbrained nature of the WRC. They have no designated head of publicity and can't find anyone to do it, largely because of DR's experience; what's the point if the FIA will ignore them?

Eurosport's showing of the WRC is like a pity date considering they are the primary force behind the IRC, which this year has rounds in Monte Carlo, SanRemo, Scotland, and the Safari. Where have we heard of those events before? Why do they have three committed manufacturers with smaller scale developments by four more? Other than cost I don't think the S2000 format is any better than the current WR car, but the series set-up is just so much better.
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Old 01-14-2009, 12:34 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Weasel 555 View Post
“...Do you believe that Bernie Ecclestone would choose not the best grands prix in the world or the ones that could afford to promote themselves better than anybody else or just go to places for political reasons? No, he wouldn't, of course he wouldn't.”
[/i]


I have seen seen several examples of F1 dropping races due to politcal reasons, though there is only one I can think of that they went to more for political reasons (South Africa, 1992-3, and the promoter went bankrupt after the 1993 race). Indy, Canada, and Spa (2003 and 06) all immediately jump to mind for races that have been dropped for what I feel are more politcal reasons than anything else.

I'm not arguing with Richards' point, but I think it was a poor choice of analogy.
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Old 01-14-2009, 12:53 PM   #7
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I don't think it was WRC that wanted to much, but the European TV company that had the rights to it. Which I believe is Eurosport...

ISC (International Sportsworld Communicators Ltd), yet one more David Richards company is the commercial rights holders for the WRC.

They are the driving force behind the central service and repeated loop stage format. They are also the ones that are in charge of setting the distributor rates and putting together re-broadcast rights with broadcasting partners. They also handle all of the production operations.

Eurosport is not the production company nor are they the promoter or the ones in charge of the broadcast tender agreements. Interestingly enough ISC basically went bankrupt and is now owned by North One Television Company.

Realistically, there are many people that regard David Richards as the concept architect to the fall and demise of the WRC. It was some of his changes and proposals, sold to the FIA on the grounds of being necessary for better TV (better TV that was necessary for the manufacturers to be able to get the value out of the events that they needed, which happened to feature a team that his company ran and managed) that have so highly diluted the WRC as to erode significant interest in fans. From their, Mad Max has really ran with the ball and buggered things up but this whole cost cutting nonsense didn't start until the "TV mandate changes" coming from DR vis-a-vis ISC were already in place...

Eurosport is not a guilty partner in the WRC mess.
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Old 01-14-2009, 12:53 PM   #8
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I have seen seen several examples of F1 dropping races due to politcal reasons, though there is only one I can think of that they went to more for political reasons (South Africa, 1992-3, and the promoter went bankrupt after the 1993 race). Indy, Canada, and Spa (2003 and 06) all immediately jump to mind for races that have been dropped for what I feel are more politcal reasons than anything else.

I'm not arguing with Richards' point, but I think it was a poor choice of analogy.
Yes but F1 still runs there classic events every year, Monza, Monaco, Brazil, etc. and I don't F1 fanatics will think Indy and Canada classify as classic grand prix. WRC isn't running the likes of Monte Carlo, Britain, Argentina, Finland, and verious other rallys that make for great events every year which alienates most current WRC fans.
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Old 01-14-2009, 02:41 PM   #9
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Realistically, there are many people that regard David Richards as the concept architect to the fall and demise of the WRC. It was some of his changes and proposals, sold to the FIA on the grounds of being necessary for better TV (better TV that was necessary for the manufacturers to be able to get the value out of the events that they needed, which happened to feature a team that his company ran and managed) that have so highly diluted the WRC as to erode significant interest in fans. From their, Mad Max has really ran with the ball and buggered things up but this whole cost cutting nonsense didn't start until the "TV mandate changes" coming from DR vis-a-vis ISC were already in place...

Eurosport is not a guilty partner in the WRC mess.
I like this analysis better than my inane ramble, albeit without the depth of bitterness...
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Old 01-14-2009, 03:45 PM   #10
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fingah point-nnn, here it comes.
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Old 01-14-2009, 05:48 PM   #11
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"better TV that was necessary for the manufacturers to be able to get the value out of the events that they needed."

I think this sums it up for all motorsports. You need to make it attractive to sponsors, manufacturers, and advertisers so they can actually get a return on their investments. The "prestige" of racing certain series no longer holds the same value it once did. Given tough economic times, promoters, and organizations should be completely focused on providing an economic "no brainier" for those looking to get the best return on their investments in racing.

When times are tough and the number crunching begins you better be able to justify your racing expenses and or advertising. If sales of your company's product have dropped 40% and you can't trim your racing or advertising budget accordingly and still be competitive, the smart business move is to take a break.

Even in the "Time Attack" events we run I can't believe how some of the team's budgets and expenses can be justified when many of the parts are one-off or custom and can't be directly turned into sales revenue. It's so easy to get caught up in "racing" and "branding" your company instead of focusing on being profitable and turning your racing efforts into product sales. I think on a much more complicated level this is what Subaru, Honda, Suzuki, Audi, and more have realized.
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Old 01-14-2009, 07:34 PM   #12
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Shocker, FIA is screwing up WRC as much as they're screwing with F1. Can't say I'm surprised considering the nitwits that are running the FIA right now.
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Old 01-14-2009, 11:09 PM   #13
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Yes but F1 still runs there classic events every year, Monza, Monaco, Brazil, etc. and I don't F1 fanatics will think Indy and Canada classify as classic grand prix. WRC isn't running the likes of Monte Carlo, Britain, Argentina, Finland, and verious other rallys that make for great events every year which alienates most current WRC fans.
Think it is time you do some reading. Candian Grand Prix has been around since the 60's. The current track, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, has held the Grand Prix for almost as long as I have been alive. It is named after one of the greats of the sport. I will agree that Indy is not a classic track but Montreal is in my mind. Was a sad day when they decided to drop Montreal from the calender, hope F1 will return but it is not looking good for a race anywhere in NA for a while. Sad for all of us.
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Old 01-15-2009, 01:35 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Element Tuning View Post
"better TV that was necessary for the manufacturers to be able to get the value out of the events that they needed."

I think this sums it up for all motorsports. You need to make it attractive to sponsors, manufacturers, and advertisers so they can actually get a return on their investments. The "prestige" of racing certain series no longer holds the same value it once did. Given tough economic times, promoters, and organizations should be completely focused on providing an economic "no brainier" for those looking to get the best return on their investments in racing.

When times are tough and the number crunching begins you better be able to justify your racing expenses and or advertising. If sales of your company's product have dropped 40% and you can't trim your racing or advertising budget accordingly and still be competitive, the smart business move is to take a break.

Even in the "Time Attack" events we run I can't believe how some of the team's budgets and expenses can be justified when many of the parts are one-off or custom and can't be directly turned into sales revenue. It's so easy to get caught up in "racing" and "branding" your company instead of focusing on being profitable and turning your racing efforts into product sales. I think on a much more complicated level this is what Subaru, Honda, Suzuki, Audi, and more have realized.
Part of the WRC problem however is that the "changes" to the events to make the TV package better diluted the sport to the point that many of even the die hard fans lost interest in following the sport on TV.

It is one thing to package the product in an easily sold manner, it is entirely different to fundamentally undermine the quality of the product to ensure its packaging.

DR helped to spear head the movement to so dilute the essence of rallying out of the WRC with misguided marketing and advertising ideas that the sport remains gutted from its most recent peak. At the core of this were the change to single surface events, central service parks, repeated loop stages (fewer camera crews on this point), and no night stages. The whole idea was to make it easier for the fans to see the cars multiple times and for the TV crews to be smaller and each cameraman get more footage. Ultimately the idea was that if more people could see the logos everybody would be happy.

What happened however was that the sport became a series of cookie cutter events that lacked personality. Eventually the drivers became cookie cutter as well. Instead of building a series based on cult like following of unique events and drivers (similar to NASCAR (the most successful motorsport based on one of the simplest forms of competition)) rallies became the source of content for infomercialesque broadcasts. There is so much potential for character, excitement, and variety in the sport that the DR program simply stamped out in the name of making it easy to show some clips of sponsor logos.

These changes eroded the appeal of the sport to the point that fewer and fewer people were seeing the pretty cars with their sponsor logos plastered all over them (despite the logos being easier to see and seen more often).

The value was sucked out of the sport due to the laziness and greed of a select few people, people whose interests were shared with or represented by DR.
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Old 01-15-2009, 10:37 AM   #15
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One thing that's being missed here about Indy:

It wasn't the most popular track, and doesn't have a strong recent history, but it had by a significant margin, the highest attendance of any F1 event, with estimates generally well over 200,000 for race day.

Yes, you can see empty stands in several places, but you have to remember that the track has seating for over 400,000, and many of the sections weren't used for the F1 race.

Also as was mentioned, the Canadian GP, though it has been at 3 different tracks, all 3 are within a reasonable day's drive of Montreal, and has been run all but 2 years since 1967. Brazil has been run continuously, but only since 1973.

For history, I'd put the F1 races in Monaco, Italy, Great Britan, France, Germany, and Belguim as more "classic events" than Canada, and Spain is about equal, but I'd put it ahead of everything else, including Brazil, Australia, and San Marino.

Last edited by kfoote; 01-15-2009 at 10:57 AM.
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Old 01-15-2009, 01:28 PM   #16
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There are two things that killed my interest in WRC.

The first was the cutting back, and then loss of coverage on Speed TV. Back in 2001, they used to show 1-2 hours every friday, saturday, and sunday evening. 2-3 years later, it was down to an hour on sunday, then it was gone.

The second was buying an STI. I bought the STI because I watched WRC. There is absolutely no question of that. Then once I had it, I realized that the car would be much, much better for me and the vast majority of its enthusiast buyers if were developed for road racing instead of rally.

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Old 01-15-2009, 01:29 PM   #17
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One thing that's being missed here about Indy:

It wasn't the most popular track, and doesn't have a strong recent history, but it had by a significant margin, the highest attendance of any F1 event, with estimates generally well over 200,000 for race day.

Yes, you can see empty stands in several places, but you have to remember that the track has seating for over 400,000, and many of the sections weren't used for the F1 race.

Also as was mentioned, the Canadian GP, though it has been at 3 different tracks, all 3 are within a reasonable day's drive of Montreal, and has been run all but 2 years since 1967. Brazil has been run continuously, but only since 1973.

For history, I'd put the F1 races in Monaco, Italy, Great Britan, France, Germany, and Belguim as more "classic events" than Canada, and Spain is about equal, but I'd put it ahead of everything else, including Brazil, Australia, and San Marino.
The reason Indy has the biggest crowd is that it has the ability to seat that many people and it was the only race most NA fans had the means to go to. I've been to Indy it was great place to watch a race but I the races ran there where pretty boring.
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Old 01-15-2009, 04:04 PM   #18
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Shocker, FIA is screwing up WRC as much as they're screwing with F1. Can't say I'm surprised considering the nitwits that are running the FIA right now.
i agree...

i point my finger at FIA

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Old 01-15-2009, 05:33 PM   #19
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Part of the WRC problem however is that the "changes" to the events to make the TV package better diluted the sport to the point that many of even the die hard fans lost interest in following the sport on TV.

It is one thing to package the product in an easily sold manner, it is entirely different to fundamentally undermine the quality of the product to ensure its packaging.

DR helped to spear head the movement to so dilute the essence of rallying out of the WRC with misguided marketing and advertising ideas that the sport remains gutted from its most recent peak. At the core of this were the change to single surface events, central service parks, repeated loop stages (fewer camera crews on this point), and no night stages. The whole idea was to make it easier for the fans to see the cars multiple times and for the TV crews to be smaller and each cameraman get more footage. Ultimately the idea was that if more people could see the logos everybody would be happy.

What happened however was that the sport became a series of cookie cutter events that lacked personality. Eventually the drivers became cookie cutter as well. Instead of building a series based on cult like following of unique events and drivers (similar to NASCAR (the most successful motorsport based on one of the simplest forms of competition)) rallies became the source of content for infomercialesque broadcasts. There is so much potential for character, excitement, and variety in the sport that the DR program simply stamped out in the name of making it easy to show some clips of sponsor logos.

These changes eroded the appeal of the sport to the point that fewer and fewer people were seeing the pretty cars with their sponsor logos plastered all over them (despite the logos being easier to see and seen more often).

The value was sucked out of the sport due to the laziness and greed of a select few people, people whose interests were shared with or represented by DR.

I completely disagree with you.
First off, iirc the last time they did true multi-surfaced events was in 1996, long before DR started with his media campaign. They stopped this because it was ridiculously expensive and troublesome for the teams to completely change the suspension and set ups a couple of times during the event.

Your argument sounds like one of the old curmudgeons on Special Stage trying to cling to the "good old days". Given that more people watch the sport on TV than on the stages, DR's changes were smart and where necessary to sustain the sport in changing times. While it may have diluted the sport for some of the old die hards, I am sure it created plenty of new fans.

IMO, the problem with the sport now is that the FIA didn't curb technology and costs. With all the new technologies, cars have so much grip now that drivers no longer need to set the car up for the corners, instead they can take a racing line. This is borign to watch and has allowed tarmac specialists such as Loeb to completely dominate no matter the surface. Add to this, teams with much bigger budgets (Citroen) to develop and test new cars and you have the current recipe for one team/driver to consistently win nearly every event. This has made the sport completely boring, even for this diehard fan ( I pretty much stopped watching it)

IMO, dialing back the technology, ie. no electronic aids, H-pattern gearboxes, simpler diffs, etc and putting caps on how much the teams can spend on the cars/R&D, would make the sport much more exciting to watch. In addition, with lower costs, teams could go back to having three and four car teams, meaning more drivers and bigger fights for the win and the championship.

Last edited by Mopho; 01-15-2009 at 08:01 PM.
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Old 01-15-2009, 07:50 PM   #20
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I fell in love with rally a couple years ago and it has been so sad to see the state of the WRC these days. I find myself barely staying awake watching Eurosport daily reviews of the rallies but when I see the passion that is still in the drivers and co-drivers it renews my spirits. I almost hope that motorsports hit a wall for a year or two only so they can come back better than ever (for ALL involved, participants, sponsers, fans, etc). I should have listened to the posters on rallye-info.com a couple years ago when they were starting to say RIP WRC.
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Old 01-15-2009, 10:03 PM   #21
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I completely disagree with you.
First off, iirc the last time they did true multi-surfaced events was in 1996, long before DR started with his media campaign. They stopped this because it was ridiculously expensive and troublesome for the teams to completely change the suspension and set ups a couple of times during the event.

Your argument sounds like one of the old curmudgeons on Special Stage trying to cling to the "good old days". Given that more people watch the sport on TV than on the stages, DR's changes were smart and where necessary to sustain the sport in changing times. While it may have diluted the sport for some of the old die hards, I am sure it created plenty of new fans.

IMO, the problem with the sport now is that the FIA didn't curb technology and costs. With all the new technologies, cars have so much grip now that drivers no longer need to set the car up for the corners, instead they can take a racing line. This is borign to watch and has allowed tarmac specialists such as Loeb to completely dominate no matter the surface. Add to this, teams with much bigger budgets (Citroen) to develop and test new cars and you have the current recipe for one team/driver to consistently win nearly every event. This has made the sport completely boring, even for this diehard fan ( I pretty much stopped watching it)

IMO, dialing back the technology, ie. no electronic aids, H-pattern gearboxes, simpler diffs, etc and putting caps on how much the teams can spend on the cars/R&D, would make the sport much more exciting to watch. In addition, with lower costs, teams could go back to having three and four car teams, meaning more drivers and bigger fights for the win and the championship.


Portugal and Cyprus both wanted to go to mixed surfaces in 2004. DRs TV changes didn't ban this. That as a tangental point. Mainly, it was one more example of things that were instituted to make events less exciting.

But I don't want the old days persay.

What I want is events that have some real variety and character. Repeating the same stages every afternoon is dull. Not running at night is dull. Having 5 events that on TV look basically the same is dull.

Ditch the format that basically dictates repeated loops. Let fantastic stages be re-used. Let the organizers use the best, most challenging, most spectacular roads irregardless of whether or not they are conveinent to the central service area. Let organizers that want to run night stages run night stages. Let the organizers that want to have a mixed surface event to have the best, most challenging, most spectacular event possible have mixed surface events.

The wants and needs of the ISC for the product that they wanted to produce made the WRC events painfully generic. They were the basis for the central service and repeated loop format. They were the basis for the elimination of night stages. The most exciting pieces of rally coverage for me over the last two years from ISC has been Monte 2008 with the night stages and NZ 2007 with the incredible battle between Bosse and Loeb. All the over pieces of coverage have been painfully generic and bland.

Honestly Morgan, what was more exciting to watch, the WRC in 2001 and 2002 or the WRC in 2008?

If TV is how the vast majority of fans will see the sport then what is the point in cutting the sports balls off in the name of making TV easier? All you end up with is a boring sport on TV that many people aren't very motivated to watch...
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Old 01-15-2009, 10:27 PM   #22
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Honestly Morgan, what was more exciting to watch, the WRC in 2001 and 2002 or the WRC in 2008?

The format hasn't changed much since 2001/02 they were repeating stages and doing more centralized service then too. What changed is, as I mentioned, the cars technology and the reduction in the size and number of the teams.
Those seasons (and the 90's even more so) were more exciting to watch, not because of location or how the event was organized, but because the cars were still getting really sideways and there was like 4-5 drivers all in the fight.
Now there is just Loeb and the guy who hangs in there to pick up the pieces IF Loeb makes a mistake.


And Kevin, you know as well as I do, on TV, if you weren't told they are running the same stages, they could move the cameras around and you would have no idea it was the same stage.
I could shoot on one stage for a whole day and make it look like ten different places.

And you also know as well as I do that making the event more compact is much better for the organizers, the host communities, and the spectators


I do miss night stages (on TV) though


Edit to add: I will say, that I don't think the current television production is edited nearly as well as it was in the late 90's early 2000's, and the incar camera sucks now

Last edited by Mopho; 01-15-2009 at 10:40 PM.
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Old 01-15-2009, 10:49 PM   #23
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Another possible reason for why there are not 4-5 drivers in the running is because Loeb might be THAT good...
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Old 01-16-2009, 12:37 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OBShahn View Post
But I don't want the old days persay.
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=persay

(sorry)
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Old 01-16-2009, 09:18 AM   #25
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they should have just banned electronic shifting and differentials if they wanted to keep it more affordable and more exciting...then again what do the companies have to gain? I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have DCCD if it weren't for WRC.
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