World Rally Championship Commission president Jarmo Mahonen discusses the complicated commercial situation for the series.
Q. What went wrong with the Eurosport promotional deal?
Jarmo Mahonen: We thought the contract was there, but it wasn't. We don't want to make hasty decisions. Now we want to be doctors, not nurses – we want to cure the disease. Now is the time to look at this from the clean sheet of paper and also from the business side as well.
Q. What is the Expression of Interest document about?
JM: We want to see what is outside and to see if there is somebody who can come with something creative. What we have had here [North One Sport] doesn't work, but I think there are a lot of things to take away from this. We are going to be stronger for the future.
Q. Does this mean there won't be a single promoter but lots of experts in their fields?
JM: No. We want to see what is out there. Is there something we don't know or somebody we don't know? What would be the model? Now we leave that side of things to the people who are interested in the rights. Then we start discussions with those who have some interesting business plans.
If you put out a tender offer, then everybody just ticks boxes and says there you are, done. But this way we are asking for what people are thinking and what can they do. The time frame is very tight, so I'm sure the very serious players will answer in that time frame.
We will have a promoter outside and how he organizes his business is up to him. Let's imagine there's nobody we can see as a satisfactory partner, there is always the potential to do this in-house. The FIA does now have the infrastructure in place, but we will keep all the options open and we will have this sorted for 2013, I'm very confident that we will do it. We're not into hurrying and we won't make hasty decisions, if we do that then we will end up with the same position in two years.
Q. What is it an Expression of Interest in – how many rounds, what style of rallies?
JM: The criteria, we have them already, but they have to be discussed with the stakeholders. We are in the process. We are using this situation to introduce a new way to work. The calendar is the fundamental thing, almost everything is based on this. We will make a [calendar] proposal to the WRC commission in May and to the World Motor Sport Council in June.
Q. What about contracts for the events?
JM: There are no contracts. No event has a contract at all, every event has to start again.
Q. What about the road map and moving to two new regions?
JM: It's no secret that we have two candidate events this year, so it depends on those. It's possible. It's not a secret that we have made the decision to go to regions where we have never been before and these organizers will get three-year contracts to justify their investment to the championship, so we have to be very confident and clear that this depends on how they can deliver the candidate event.
Q. What do you expect from the WRC 2013 calendar?
JM: It's not so radical. It has to be step by step, but compared to 2011 and '12, I see new countries coming: country or countries, I can't say. And it's not a secret to say we are looking to BRICK countries. Brazil and maybe South Africa and China – the biggest car market in the world. Also with Russia, we are working with these options and also with India.
Q. So, 13 rounds?
JM: I don't know, let's say 10-13.
Q. No more than 13 then?
JM: We have to be very cautious not to increase the total costs. My personal view is that if you introduce something which is more costs than a normal classic event – a long-haul event – then it has to effect the number of events on the calendar to compensate that cost. It is likely a puzzle to build the calendar and that's why it's impossible to say at this stage how many we will have. As well, we have the new territories and we are going to make the decision before the candidate events have taken place, so they have to be there with an asterisk.
Q. So do you put both candidate events in?
JM: We don't know, let's wait and see, but it is possible. It depends what the stakeholders believe.
Q. What is your view of the state of WRC?
JM: The whole situation today, I see it as an opportunity – and this is not some political bull**** – I see it as a chance to create something new: a new way to work, how we can work. I see WRC as the sleeping giant. When I look from the broadcasters' point of view, from talking to 20 or 25 of them, there is so much demand for this thing to happen. And from the FIA's point of view, this is the second most important world championship, so I am not worried about this. The value is still in the championship, but if we don't do anything then this value will decrease and that's why we are working on the solutions.