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 CitroŽn 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.”