Rallying in India is in trouble. This is something people within the country's rallying fraternity knew even before the Federation of Motor Sport Clubs of India (FMSCI) released a truncated, four-round, calendar for the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) last week, which won't start until September. Accompanying this announcement was the news that the INRC will run without a sponsor or promoter, forcing the motorsport clubs, which organise and run rallies around the country, to bear the costs.
The FMSCI's press release claimed that it will be responsible for running the INRC, but given the experience of the promoters of the championship for the last three years, that might not be a good idea.
“It wasn't a very good experience,” said Pro Sport Promotions' (PSP) Anabelle Manwaring who, in partnership with the India Mines Group (IMG), was responsible for promotion of the INRC as well as its commercial rights.
“We (PSP and IMG) paid R2.75 crore for the promotion of the INRC for three years, starting in 2009,” Manwaring told HT. “The FMSCI promised us that the sum would be put back into rallying but they put in only a marginal amount. Most of it went to the FMSCI.”
Manwaring claimed that the FMSCI's inadequacy to run the championship led to the withdrawal of Bharat Petroleum, which was the title sponsor for the INRC through their SPEED brand, in 2010, the second of the three-year agreement between FMSCI and IMG-PSP.
“After Bharat Petroleum left, we had to pay the motor sport clubs for the running of the events,” said Manwaring. “In the third year of our agreement (2011), we spent R5.5 crore of our money for this.”
The experience of dealing with the FMSCI has left Manwaring wary about ever being involved in a venture where the governing body for motorsport in India is involved.
“With events like Formula One, the organiser just has to get the license from the FMSCI to run an event, so there is no problem there,” said Manwaring. “When they (FMSCI) get involved with the actual administration or running, I don't have much confidence.”
Manwaring is not the only one to feel that the FMSCI has done little to help a sport that is well suited to India's vast and varied road network. Former seven-time national rally champion N Leelakrishnan, now the technical head of Red Rooster Racing, feels that rallying has been given a raw deal.
Team pulls out
“Rallying is conducted very shabbily so we (Red Rooster Racing) quit after winning the title in 2010,” said Leelakrishnan. “There was no publicity, it wasn't promoted well either so there was nothing we could get out of finishing first in the championship.”
Manwaring maintained that given the broken promises of the FMSCI to introduce four-wheel-drive vehicles and entice manufacturers into the INRC over the three years of IMG-PSP's involvement, getting the INRC rounds telecast on Ten Sports and DD Sports was an achievement in itself.
The current president of the FMSCI, Vicky Chandhok, admitted that IMG-PSP did their bit. "They put their money where the mouth is," said Chandhok of IMG-PSP, who refused to renew their contract with the FMSCI at the end of 2011. “The organisation of the rounds was something that could have been better.”