The Formula One World Championship fight is all but finished, yet it commands the back pages of the UK’s sporting press. Thousands of miles from it however a three-way title fight is brewing, and no-one seems to have noticed.
On Sunday 7th October Lewis Hamilton took a commanding victory at the Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka Circuit, he leads the championship by 63 points from rival Sebastian Vettel. He can win the title at the next round in the United States in two weeks if he wins the race and Vettel finishes third or lower.
At the time of writing the World Rally Championship has completed Rally Wales GB. After a thrilling rally in which Toyota pilot Ott Tanak looked set to take his fourth consecutive rally and the championship lead until he retired on stage 14 with sump guard failure. This handed the victory to defending champion Sebastian Ogier who sits second in the championship, seven points behind Thierry Neuville.
The championship currently sits at a point where, with two rallies still to go, the top three drivers (and co-drivers) are spread apart by just 21 points. With 50 points still on offer, plus the 5 points that can be attained through winning the single ‘Power Stage’ on each rally, the title very much hangs in the balance.
Yet, if you were to have a look at any of the sports pages of websites such as The Guardian, The Times, Independent etc, you wouldn’t know that such a momentous battle was occurring.
Whilst Formula One is uniformly acknowledged and covered by the mainstream press, the World Rally Championship is firmly ignored or hidden away as in the case of the BBC Sport website where the entire Motorsport section is hidden away like an unwanted child.
This is a shame given World Rally cars are more impressive than contemporary Formula One cars. Formula One machines may be faster, but they must only deal with one surface and do not have the same strains put on them that rally cars do.
Comparatively in the WRC, the same car that has to perform in 45-degree heat also must perform in -30 degree cold, all whilst travelling at over 110mph on narrow lanes where there is no run-off and no margin for error.
You would think then that the combination of fast and aesthetically pleasing cars, combined with the close championship fight would have non-motorsport media drooling over it in the same way they do a close fight in F1.
But no. Due likely to locational challenges they do not travel and do not report or share the championship story. They leave motorsport journalist greats such as David Evans and Jack Benyon of Autosport to report on it to motorsport fans.
The work these gentlemen and Autosport do is essential but just think of how much the WRC’s fan base could grow if the names Sebastian Ogier/Julien Ingrassia, Thierry Neuvill/Nicolas Gilsoul and Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja were shared with the everyday reader and viewer.
Its not as if the cars themselves are boring, Each Toyota, Ford, Hyundai and Citroen are 380bhp be-winged beasts that fly through the forests and ice trails of the world. They are not limited by fuel or noise regulations either. Bar a little tyre strategy, it is flat out racing over hundreds of kilometres with rallies sometimes decided by less margin than som circuit races.
If only people knew because ignorance is not bliss. When we live in a world where broadcasters such as the BBC, ITV and Sky are searching for the next big series to keep people hooked. When papers such as The Times, Guardian, Daily Mail etc are looking out for the most engrossing, up to date, fast moving story they all forget that that just finished lighting up North Wales.