The Motor Report wites:
THE WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP could be set for a massive boost after it was revealed Fiat and Volkswagen are poised to enter the series next season.
WRC has struggled in the wake of the global financial crisis, with Suzuki and Subaru withdrawing from the championship at the end of last season, leaving the series with only two manufacturers, Ford and Citroen.
However, if the arrival of Fiat and Volkswagen eventuates, the two companies can be expected to give the series a massive boost thanks to their resources and huge global supporter base.
News of the potential new entries into the world of WRC was confirmed by Neil Duncanson, Chief Executive Officer of series owner North One, a British television production company.
“I’ve got one or two (manufacturers) who I think will come in. I don’t want more than four (manufacturers competing in total) because any more than that and they can’t win,” he said to the Financial Times.
Although the reduced cost of competing in WRC compared to Formula 1 is an attraction to manufacturers, Duncanson believes the reason for the arrival of up to two new manufacturers lies in the close resemblance between rally cars and their on-road counterparts.
As a result, Duncanson said the marketing potential of rallying for surpasses that provided by most alternative racing categories.
“The manufacturers find themselves in a much better position because we are selling the real cars,” he said.
The arrival of Fiat in WRC may also have real ramifications for Formula 1 as rumours surrounding the future of Kimi Raikkonen refuse to subside.
Ferrari is believed to have secured the services of Fernando Alonso and sponsor Santander next season, but is unable to announce any deal until a buy-out agreement is arranged with Raikkonen.
However, with the prospect of a factory WRC seat with Fiat a real possibility, Raikkonen may be persuaded to accelerate his move to rallying, while remaining under the company’s corporate banner.
Interestingly, Raikkonen competed at the recent Rally Finland at the wheel of a Fiat Grande Punto S2000.