At the beginning of this year, I was lucky enough to meet one of the best German rally drivers of our time. It wasn’t Walter Röhrl, I hadn’t written “the best” either. I took the chance and sat down with Armin Schwarz for a good 30 minutes and asked him a few questions about the past, the coming and the present.
In itself I only had a few small questions, but the engaging Franconian wanted to have every little detail covered. Maybe we will make the whole conversation available to you as a podcast later. My fundamental question was actually what happened to motorsport and why nothing changes about it, clearly with a focus on rallying. But as he himself says, rallying slept through the change:
“The rally sport, which I really care about, should have gone with the trend. Nobody needs such big rallies anymore, where thousands of kilometers are driven. The sport has changed, it has to be grippy, it has to be small and it has to be compact. The fan has to get it. “
And this is exactly where rallying has been lacking for years.
“At some point the cars disappear into the forest and reappear after hours. Nobody knows what has happened in the meantime, why half the body is missing or why a car never comes back from the forest. “
Access has also changed, in the past it was easy to even be part of the rally. Back then, when the service parks weren’t local, but somewhere on farms, it often happened that fans helped the teams because their team wasn’t big enough. Completely different today, fans have to dig deep into their pockets to have the right ticket ready to get to the Service Park. It’s the same with getting started. In the past, you simply set up a Golf, put in the cage and off you go to the next mountain rally.
Today, however, “you have the choice between a Mitsubishi or a Subaru, then you have to put in the cage and a long list of necessary extras. Everything together costs 130,000 euros. That means you have to look for a sponsor who invests in you without ever seeing you drive. Nobody buys a pig in a poke, after all, nobody knows whether you have talent or not. ”And then he reminisces in wonderful Franconian memories:
“It was different 15, 20 years ago. People built cars and took part in small rallies. Then you could see, ‘ah there is one who beats up all the others. Every Saturday in the new and in the oldest car. It has to be good ‘, this approach is completely missing today.”
And then a lot is up to the organizer. No uniform system, everyone stops when they want. Sometimes the rally ends at 11 a.m. and sometimes at 6 p.m. And another one is ready on Saturday evening.
“In order to establish something, to regularly get people in front of the screen or on the track, I have to develop consistency. Very simple example; There’s football on Saturday and at 6 p.m. I’ll find out about all the games in the sports show. “
There are already plenty of uniform plans, Formula 1, WTCC or Moto GP, all of which adhere to a regular schedule. The ultimate end solution, of course we don’t have that ready. If we had them, we would be busy with other things in life.
But at least Armin Schwarz has one approach at hand. Sometimes this coincides with his experience in the Baja 1000, where almost anyone can do it on the race track for 300 US dollars at the weekend. No, don’t watch, drive yourself.
The Baja trucks are, as he puts it so beautifully,
“So easy, as a trained car mechanic I can still repair it. Try it on a new car, nothing works because you need one with the laptop. Who knows what to do? Who has the right software with them? Without it it won’t start. “
For tomorrow’s rallies, everyone has to sit down at one table. The Franconian proposal would be a mix of the classics such as Monte Carlo, Sweden and the Acropolis rally. Plus new, compact rallies that also take the entertainment factor into account.
“Something has to happen for the spectator when no car is passing by. Say screen, live music, attractions for the kids. As is the case with Nascar in the USA, it should be understood as a Sunday outing with the family. Everyone has fun with it and it has to be the same with the rally. “
The interview was conducted by Fabian Meßner