2009 WRC Season Commentary

2009 WRC Summary by General Article :

The biggest news came from a revamp of the calendar. With manufacturers down to two now, the FIA at long last gave in and reduced the calendar from 16 to 12 rounds. Already in previews seasons it looked like a rotation system was on the cards again. This failed already in 1994-1996, so of course we would try this again. Pardon my sarcasm. New for 2007 events Ireland and Norway took a break in 2008 and now were rounds 1 & 2 for 2009. Once again both events were very good and Ireland-Norway proved a very interesting alternative season start to Monte Carlo-Sweden. Ah, yes, that meant Monte Carlo and Sweden were dropped. Supposedly only for one season, but as it then turned out Ireland and Norway were never run again while for the following season Monte Carlo said ‘Thanks but no thanks, enough of messing about’!

The situation was not helped by the IRC snapping up Monte Carlo on the spot. Not helped is from a WRC point of view. From a generally rallying or Monte Carlo event point of view this actually was an improvement! That is the curiosity and exactly the reason why the IRC was formed in the first place. Monte Carlo as an IRC event 2009 all the sudden could have 4 days, a different start location to the finish location, a Turini Night showdown and all of this on live TV! All of this completely unthinkable in WRC thanks to the rules! No wonder Monte Carlo did not want to come back into the WRC 2010!

But this being the 2009 WRC write up: Following Ireland and Norway, round 3 was also a new old event, Cyprus, last run in the WRC in 2006. Round 4 2009 was Portugal, last run in 2007. Later on in the year Poland was completely new (historically compared with WRC Poland 1973, but this being a long asphalt event compared to a compact gravel event now, the comparison is not accurate) and later eventually Australia got their new event of the ground. Since all these events are new, and the calendar is reduced to 12 rounds, the list of events dropped since 2008 must be huge: Monte Carlo, Sweden, Mexico, Jordan, Turkey, Deutschland, NZ, Tour de Corse and Japan. All these 9 events were supposed to take a sabbatical of only one year and more new events were apparently knocking on the door, meaning we were very much back to a rotation system.

One extra remark needs to be done to Cyprus. The FIA agreed that mixed events were allowed and Cyprus started off with a leg on asphalt, followed by 2 legs on gravel. Catalunya was supposed to do a similar move, but only did so in later years. This was a very interesting step, but somehow one could feel not done properly. For other rules the asphalt leg had to be done on inappropriate tyres and with no surface changes allowed mid stage or during the day and still generally a clover leaf format in place the two gravel legs were as rough as ever and the Cyprus event such still largely unliked. A curiosity here is that from 2010 Cyprus became part of the IRC with mixed stages and remote service allowed and all the sudden the event was much improved with more beautiful, more variety and less rough stages – yet again the IRC shows how things should be done properly!

Apart from the extensive calendar reshuffle no major news in rules.

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Also in teams and sporting side of the season this could be a short story. Basically, although Loeb has to stretch his legs against Hirvonen more than ever expected, the titles in the end went to Loeb and Citroën, so nothing new here.

Of course we have Subaru and Suzuki drop out. But once again with this silly rule of 2-car teams, what did you expect? For 2009 we are effectively down to 2 manufacturers only, with manufacturers having to be insane giving competitive material to M2/customer teams. In fact, even though customer teams, in addition to Stobart we are talking ice cream manufacturer Munchies with Frederico Villagra and PH Sport with Conrad Rautenbach. So what is this, an ice cream world championship? But also, with all due respect, drivers as Frederico Villagra and Conrad Rautenbach making up manufacturer numbes, this is turning ever more a championship for rich amateurs! And even if they are good drivers, in future years I doubt Citroën would give Petter Solberg and co competitive material, as a win of a customer team, even if in a Citroën, effectively takes points away from Citroën the car manufacturer! And at the end of the day, for those who pay the show, rallying is about selling cars, not about selling ice cream or condoms or whatever!

Anyway, all this means there are only 4 works seats available, and with Loeb, Sordo, Hirvonen & Latvala these are filled! For the departure of Subaru and Suzuki, this effectively means end of the road for Atkinson, Gardemeister & Andersson! Leaves Petter Solberg, and that is probably the most exciting bit of the whole season: Credits to Petter forming and running his own team to stay in the WRC. You can’t beat that for enthusiasm. And curiously, although Solberg would hardly have got the same material that Loeb had, his results actually improved over his last years at Subaru.
 

2009 WRC Factory Team and Driver Line Ups :
 

Citroën Citroën, 2009 - Citroën Racing : 1st on 167 points.
 

 

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Ford Ford, 2009 - BP Ford Abu Dhabi Rallye Team : 2nd on 140 points.
 

 

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Ford Ford, 2009 - Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team : 3rd on 80 points.
 

 

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Citroën Citroën, 2009 - PH Sport / Citroën Junior : 4th on 47 points.
 

 

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Ford Ford, 2009 - Munchi's Ford World Rally Team : 5th on 23 points.
 

 

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