BBC withdraws McRae tribute programme

Press shot from production company, Touchline TV

Press shot from BBC via Touchline TV

The BBC has left the public bewildered after dropping the second of three planned instalments of its ‘Racing Legends’ series. As is stated fairly categorically on the series page on the BBC website here (at least at the time of writing), ‘there will be 3 episodes’.

According to the original press release, this series was to have featured 1) Sir Patrick Stewart, formerly Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise, meeting his boyhood hero Sir Stirling Moss; 2) Sir Chris Hoy, Britain’s most successful Olympian, telling the story of his hero Colin McRae; 3) TV chef James Martin meeting his idol Sir Jackie Stewart.

All three episodes were due to have been aired in the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve but all mention of the McRae programme disappeared during the week before broadcast. Both the Moss and Stewart programmes have subsequently been shown but the McRae episode has disappeared and is extremely unlikely to see the light of day.

Responses from the BBC to enquiries from motor sport fans have been varied – reportedly including statements that there are contractual, copyright and legal issues involved. WRF understands from a well-placed source that there is a considerable degree of nervousness permeating the BBC at the present time in the wake of the Sir Jimmy Savile debacle.

According to the amended press release for the series (which has moved the Stewart programme to episode 2 and the McRae programme to episode 3 with a ‘TBA’ broadcast date), Colin’s father Jimmy McRae ‘speaks movingly about the tragic accident that claimed his son’s life’. In the current climate it’s therefore logical to expect that any programme which celebrated Colin’s life would have exposed the BBC to further criticism with regard to the welfare of children.

The fact is that although Colin McRae’s life and career were an inspiration to millions, the 2011 Fatal Accident Inquiry into his death in a flying accident found the 1995 world champion responsible for the crash which ended his life and those of his five year-old son, his son’s six year-old friend and another adult friend of the family. This cannot have been news either to the BBC’s commissioning team… but clearly someone got spooked at the eleventh hour.

A barometer of where the public opinion is at present came in the Telegraph’s review of the opening Racing Legends show with Sir Stirling Moss. In the eyes of motor sport fans it was a perfectly likeable documentary, but Stirling’s familiar trenchant views on the 1955 Le Mans disaster – admirably unchanged from that day to this – made him, in the reviewer’s eyes, ‘too different from the rest of us to be terribly likeable’.

In the Twitterverse, the dropping of the McRae programme was clearly news to Sir Chris Hoy, who tweeted: ‘Not sure when BBC racing legends prog about Colin McRae is on, for those of you asking’. Meanwhile one of the show’s production team, Lindsey Green, insisted in her feed that it will ‘Probably be on early next year’.

While rally fans have been left disappointed, so too are those who participated in making it… not least the owner of the Sunbeam Ti that underwent expensive restoration work in order for Hoy and Jimmy McRae to take the wheel of the car. WRF hopes that the McRae programme can be edited into a form that is more palatable to the BBC’s fear of the British public – ideally with more content on the rivalry between him and Britain’s other ‘lost’ champion, Richard Burns.

HBS to film WRC in 2013

HBS filming at the World Cup 2010

HBS filming at the World Cup 2010

Swiss company HBS has been awarded the contract to film the 2013 WRC season by Red Bull Media House and Sportsman. Previously, HBS has focused on international football, including the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cup. It will continue working for FIFA in future including the 2014 World Cup.

Coverage for the WRC will include daily news edits and a 26-minute post-event highlight show of each rally, as well as a 52-minute show featuring all the highlights of the WRC season. The company will work in close collaboration with its Finnish technical partner Filmworks to bring the intense emotions of this exhilarating sport to TV viewers worldwide. HBS’ veteran producer Nick Atkins will lead a dedicated team tasked with the production and delivery of each event and will utilise’ on-board cameras, aerial coverage and sophisticated microphones’ according to the company press release.

At the time of writing it is understood that neither Red Bull or Sportsman has a signed agreement with the FIA to act as promoter for the 2013 WRC, but this detail aside (!) the basic facts seem to be that the format of the TV coverage will be little different to this year. Who will screen it and therefore who can view it is another matter entirely.

Kubica to tackle ERC?

Kubica - from national events in 2012 to internationals in 2013?

Kubica – from national events in 2012 to internationals in 2013?

French magazine Auto Hebdo has run the story that former BMW and Renault F1 star Robert Kubica will contest the 2013 FIA European Rally Championship at the wheel of an M-Sport Ford Fiesta RRC.

Given the number of drivers that both M-Sport and Citroën is having to juggle between its cars on the WRC campaign, and the 28-year-old Pole’s habit of doing things in a proper manner, it would make a good deal of sense not to try and squeeze in to the mix in the rebooted WRC. The shorter format of ERC events will give him the opportunity to build up strength in his injured arm and experience of top-flight competition – in what will doubtless be a well-run and extremely pleasant atmosphere engendered in the service parks of the Eurosport series.

Elsewhere, it is understood that both M-Sport and Citroën have applied to the FIA for homologation of left-mounted gearshifts on its cars in order to allow more customers to compete in them. Kubica would prefer a left-mounted shift to reduce the strain on his injured right arm, but other drivers may also request the modification in future.

A splash of colour for Prokop

Prokop was a regular on 2013 WRC trail

Prokop was a regular on 2013 WRC trail

The perennial hard-tryer Martin Prokop will return to the WRC in 2013 at the wheel of an M-Sport Fiesta, entered by the Czech National Team. The former JWRC champion will tackle the European rounds of the world championship, and as many flyaways as his budget will reach.

More colour for the 2013 campaign

More colour for the 2013 campaign

Delecour ready for 2013

Silver fox: Delecour on 2012 IRC duty

Silver fox: Delecour on 2012 IRC duty

Former WRC hero and revered asphalt ace François Delecour is getting ready to contest 17 events in 2013 at the wheel of a Kronos-run Peugeot 207 S2000.

Delecour has not strung a full season’s campaign together for a few years, but was rejuvenated by appearing in Romania during this year’s IRC. He will return with Romanian backing to compete on the whole FIA European Rally Championship schedule (formerly the IRC), together with selected rounds of Romania’s national championship.

WRF is looking forward to some choice Romanian action in 2013.

Hyundai busy in Frankfurt

The Polo-esque Hyundai i20 WRX

The Polo-esque Hyundai i20 in Frankfurt

There are rumblings in Germany as Hyundai starts to get its development programme of the i20 into gear.

At the launch of its new three-door i30 road car, Hyundai’s vice-president in Europe, Allan Rushforth, explained to Swiss magazine Blick that the Korean giant has targeted its Volkswagen equivalent with each new model in its range. The i20 supermini on which its new WRC car is based looks very similar to the Polo, and subsequently the first rolling hack of the rally car – dubbed i20 WRX – looks rather familiar as well.

After a period of relative quiet since the announcement of its i20 WRC programme at the Paris Motor Show in September, it was felt that something more had to be seen in Europe to convince us pesky Europeans that the programme was going ahead. More than a few doubts have been raised by the silence, and no further announcements were planned until the Geneva Motor Show in March. Thus the little demo in Frankfurt was tacked on to the i30 launch to keep all the sceptics at bay!

The new team base is currently being prepared ready for a year of development in 2013 and the first anticipated WRC outings to follow in 2014.