WRC 2020 preview: Oliver Ciesla talks new events, a digital overhaul and hybrid cars

The International Rally Championship (WRC) will realise an extended sought-after ambition this 12 months when it races on six of the sector’s seven continents for the primary time in its 48-year historical past. 

Rounds in Australia, Spain and France have given approach to the go back of Kenya’s ancient Safari Rally and occasions in Japan and New Zealand, with 2020 marking the primary time in over 20 years that each Africa and Asia have gave the impression at the WRC calendar. What used to be firstly meant to be a 14-round slate has now been minimize to 13 after Santiago used to be pressured to withdraw because of the continuing political and social unrest in Chile, however that has achieved little to curb anticipation for what seems like a 12 months of trade each off and on the music for the sector’s premier rallying sequence.

Reigning champion Ott Tänak’s transfer from Toyota to Hyundai used to be certainly one of a number of crew strikes made by way of one of the crucial WRC’s main drivers throughout the low season, a transition which will have to produce one of the crucial unpredictability that every one motorsport sequence’ crave forward in their new campaigns. In the meantime, within the background, Pirelli can be operating away on tyres for the 2021 season after securing an unique provide contract remaining 12 months, whilst talks will proceed between groups and the Global Automotive Federation (FIA) in regards to the creation of hybrid automobiles from the 2022 marketing campaign.

With the 2020 WRC season getting underway in Monte Carlo this weekend, the BlackBook stuck up with the promoter’s managing director Oliver Ciesla (above, proper) to talk about the brand new calendar, long term adjustments to the automobiles and laws, and the sequence’ ever-evolving virtual providing.

What used to be at the back of the verdict so as to add Japan, Kenya and New Zealand to the 2020 calendar?

The championship has been following for some time a approach to globalise the calendar and to extend the collection of rallies which are hosted outdoor of Europe. For 2020 we controlled to carry the enduring Safari Rally in Kenya again at the calendar, a component that provides some difficult roads to our portfolio of occasions, but in addition this image postcard surroundings and the unique flora and fauna, which can be an ideal backdrop for showcasing our recreation. 

We additionally carry the WRC again to Japan after ten years. Japan goes to host the season finale subsequent season with regards to town of Nagoya, and in reality it’s been since 1999 that Africa and Asia seem in combination on a WRC calendar. 

After all, Rally New Zealand has a longstanding heritage within the WRC, and its smooth-flowing roads upload a unique component to the championship that we don’t in finding in other places. This won’t best ensure fabulous other TV photographs, however we additionally really feel this is further particular to the International Rally drivers – we listen from them that when of their occupation riding both a safari or in New Zealand is one thing which is thought of as vital for a rally motive force.

2020 sees the go back of the Safari Rally in Kenya

The inclusion of the ones occasions intended that France, Australia and Spain leave out out this 12 months. Would you ever imagine rising the collection of races at the calendar?

In fact our championship enlargement may also be accomplished thru expanding the collection of occasions. Within the imaginative and prescient I want to see 16 stops – possibly part of them in Europe, the opposite part outdoor of Europe. On the identical time this additionally would upload a price to the logistics each for the promoter and the groups. With the intention to development a brand new global rally automotive for Rally Monte Carlo 2022, we agreed with the groups that we can now not put the weight on their finances thru further occasions except the brand new automobiles had been constructed. So within the brief time period the plan could be to proceed with the 14 occasions.

Santiago in Chile has needed to withdraw from the calendar on account of the political unrest within the nation. How will that impact you commercially?

It’s after all a pity that the championship loses certainly one of its weekends. This implies there are a selection of worldwide TV target market and likewise plenty of virtual goals that we was hoping to reach thru this prevent which now can’t be accomplished. In fact we can attempt to compensate that in other places thru promotional occasions, as we did remaining 12 months in Estonia, or thru different actions, particularly on social media or in motorsport-related actions, or an end-of-season gala. However sure, it impacts specifically the target market that we strive to reach for the manufacturers concerned within the championship by way of lowering the collection of weekends.

There were numerous drivers converting groups throughout the low season. Is that this one thing that may have a favorable have an effect on at the on-track product this 12 months?

That is very a lot expanding the unpredictability about who’s going to win the primary rally, who’s going to win the championship. There’s a brand new state of affairs with Ott [Tänak] sitting now in a Hyundai, Sebastian [Ogier] because of this sitting within the Toyota, Elfyn Evans following him to Toyota, [Esapekka] Lappi now riding for M-Game, so all of this implies that they’re going to must get used to the brand new apparatus, and nobody can are expecting how that may paintings for the primary occasions. As a result, the unpredictability of the end result of the game stays prime, and this creates pleasure, this creates leisure, so drivers converting seats, for me, all the time provides to the leisure.

Final 12 months’s global drivers’ champion Ott Tänak has moved from Toyota to Hyundai

It used to be additionally introduced that the WRC will introduce hybrid powered automobiles from 2022. How is that progressing at the present time and the way do you are expecting adopting extra environmentally pleasant cars to modify your proposition from a business point of view?

This is a part of the honour, evidently, as a advertising and marketing platform the place we want to show off the largest automotive producers on the planet on slightly customary roads, other to a race music. In fact we attempt to additionally sooner or later have an be offering for automotive producers to additionally show off a powertrain this is in step with what automotive producers want to promote as of late or the following day. Subsequently, we because of this are taking a look into alternatives so as to add one thing else to this tale but even so the combustion engine.

The championship has been following for some time a approach to globalise the calendar. 

The truth that the natural electro powertrain in rallying isn’t but conceivable results in the end result that we pass within the path to introduce a hybrid gadget. The FIA and the groups are lately discussing the remaining main points at the laws and the generation that can be used from 2021 onwards, and I’m assured that for the duration of the following month there can be extra information in that regard to be shared.

This 12 months additionally sees the WRC relaunch its web page. Why now, and what are one of the crucial new options?

It have been slightly some time that neither the app nor the web page have been relaunched, so it used to be the suitable time for us to begin the brand new decade with a contemporary taking a look web page, with a considerably advanced capability, with extra products and services, more straightforward to care for, sooner to care for. Specifically our WRC + All Reside carrier is in reality going from power to power and is utilized by such a lot of enthusiasts, so this additionally needed to be refreshed, now not best by way of its feel and look, but in addition by way of its capability. 

During the last years we added such a lot of products and services that it used to be with reference to time to hyperlink those products and services with a brand new generation and to lead them to paintings smoother and engage higher in combination. So we took the chance with a brand new decade to introduce a brand new web page with a brand new feel and look and with a brand new spotlight color.

Ciesla says a brand new decade used to be “the suitable time” to relaunch the WRC web page

Has the WRC’s higher focal point on virtual modified the demographic of your target market in any respect?

We see a slight building within the demographics against just a little [of a] more youthful target market. The robust virtual gives that we’re operating on could be a contributor, however on the identical time additionally the occasions that we’re opting for, specifically with the rising collection of occasions and fans in South The us. We will be able to additionally doubtlessly see that during 2020 in Africa, the typical age may develop just a little more youthful.

We attempt to have an be offering for automotive producers to show off a powertrain this is in step with what automotive producers want to promote as of late or the following day.

Additionally, our carrier parks are turning into extra of an be offering for the entire circle of relatives, with leisure additionally for youngsters, and meals, beverages, TV displays, video video games, esports competitions, results in the truth that increasingly younger other folks and households come to our carrier parks at the weekends, which adjustments the demographics now not best relating to age, but in addition the share between female and male.

There may be clearly an important focal point on virtual at the present time with the brand new web page, WRC+ All Reside and offers in positive territories with DAZN. Does linear broadcasting nonetheless have a large position to play for you? 

Not anything adjustments on this regard. Whilst at the one facet the panorama itself adjustments, and consumer conduct transfer against virtual gives clear of linear broadcast gives, our revel in within the remaining years is that the linear broadcast additionally continues to develop.

In 2019 we once more accomplished a world TV target market above 800 million, which is an ideal outcome. In parallel to this the virtual intake is rising in no time. The web mentions of our automotive producers remaining 12 months higher by way of 40 according to cent from 12 months to the opposite, the similar counts for the impressions that we create on social media and for the video perspectives, all of the ones figures develop 12 months by way of 12 months, whilst we organize to handle this prime stage of TV target market. 

So, that’s just a little in opposition to the fashion, but it surely displays that at the present time, the programmes that we produce, the leisure that the WRC creates, turns out to paintings for all media platforms, and is permitted by way of the enthusiasts at the back of the ones channels.


What are your own priorities for 2020, and which spaces have you ever in particular recognized for growth?

To start with it’s going to be an important that we get the 2020 laws for the automobile proper – a excellent be offering for the largest automotive producers on the planet with a phenomenal powertrain embedded in a recreation this is already operating neatly generally is a an important step ahead for our long term. On the identical time, a large strategic goal that we’re operating on is to carry the WRC to the massive markets like China and North The us – this evidently is among the giant strategic goals that we need to pursue.



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