It’s only a few weeks until the opening round of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship in Monte Carlo, and Nicky Grist gives us a personal insight into his thoughts on this year’s calendar of events.
“It’s a largely unchanged WRC calendar – something that will be very familiar to us all, albeit with a few exceptions. The biggest change for us is that Wales Rally GB has swapped dates with Rally Spain, and will run earlier this year. That earlier October date might benefit us all. We’ll just be getting into autumn, so hopefully the weather will be a lot better and more stable. That will be good for the spectators, marshals, organisers and competitors. It will be no less of a challenge for the crews, but hopefully we won’t get the strong winds and torrential rain that can occur later in the year.
“The other significant change is Turkey replacing Poland in the calendar. Turkey was the very last WRC event that Colin [McRae] and I did in 2006. We stepped in for Sébastien Loeb in a Kronos team Citroën Xsara WRC, after Loeb had fallen off his mountain ‘bike and broken his shoulder. It was a difficult event – not just because it had been sixth months since our last rally, but also because we had to use the tyres Loeb had selected. Everyone thought it was going to be a dry, dusty and abrasive rally, but it turned out to be very wet and muddy, so we were stuck on the wrong tyres throughout. In the end, the alternator failed and we ran out of battery power half way through the final stage – not the way Colin or myself had planned to end our WRC careers!
“I remember that Turkey was very well supported and it was a very well organised event. It was based in Kemer, near Antalya, in 2006, so it will be all-new when next year’s event takes place in Marmaris. I’ve heard good things about the event, it seemed to run extremely well last year and so it should be a good addition to the WRC.
“I feel it’s important that the old favourites remain in the WRC, like Monte Carlo, Corsica, Portugal, Finland and GB. I can’t really imagine a WRC season without these events on the calendar and we should all continue to embrace them. Some say the WRC calendar needs new events – this is true, although you can only put in rallies that have an experienced organiser, which have run successfully before and which have sufficient financial backing.
“For me, it’s sad that the Acropolis Rally isn’t in the WRC any more. Greece offered such an incredible challenge. It had some amazing stages, a fantastic organising team and a great deal of WRC history attached to it. It was a difficult event for any car to survive and it was tremendously physically demanding for the crews – but when you got to the end, or if you were lucky enough to win it like I did four times with Colin [1998, 2000, 2001 and 2002], you knew success had been well and truly earned.
“I’ve been extremely lucky to have done so many World Championship rallies – I’ve enjoyed my fair share of success and I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved. Looking at this year’s WRC calendar, would I like to do the full series? No – because it’s tremendously time-consuming and I’d have to spend every day between now and Monte Carlo in the gym! But there are certainly one or two classic events on the calendar that I’d be very tempted to do, just one last time!”
2018 FIA World Rally Championship calendar
26‐28 January….Rally Monte Carlo
16‐18 February….Rally Sweden
09‐11 March….Rally Mexico
06‐08 April….Rally France - Tour de Corse
27‐29 April….Rally Argentina
18‐20 May….Rally Portugal
08‐10 June….Rally Italy
27‐29 July….Rally Finland
17‐19 August….Rally Germany
14‐16 September….Rally Turkey
05‐07 October….Wales Rally GB
26‐28 October….Rally Spain
16‐18 November….Rally Australia