Saturday, April 20, 2024

Guillaume de Mevius: “The European [Cup] is important for us and for European people”

Guillaume de Mévius is having fun leading T3 outfit GRallyTeam in their début season in the FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas. His brother Ghislan de Mévius is second in the standings entering the final round, while Guillaume himself has dabbled in the World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas and Dakar Rally. Speaking with Cross-Country Rally News after the Baja TT Sharish Reguengos Mourão in Portugal, the penultimate round of the European Cup, de Mévius expressed his support for the series but feels there are some glaring flaws in the points format that take away from the championship.

“This year, the European Cup was very nice,” de Mévius began. “It was the first time for me and GRallyTeam to see this kind of championship. I think it was a very good championship, always with a lot of participants and nice organisation. Throughout the year, in Spain, Greece, Hungary, and here in Portugal, a lot of people came to see the race, so that’s very nice. It’s always good to see people on the side of the road.

“It’s a very nice championship. We like it. My brother likes it a lot. I know he wants to do it again next year, so he will be there next year fighting for the first place in T3. I think we have to continue to push for this kind of championship. Having the European Championship is important for us and for European people.”

Ghislain trails João Dias in the European Cup’s T3 category by just fourteen points with one race to go, with 93 points to Dias’ 107. However, even if Ghislain dominates the season-ending Baja Troia Türkiye on 20-22 October and earns the maximum forty points while Dias does not take part, Dias would still be the champion as the European Cup only counts the three best finishes. Dias has two victories at the Baja TT Dehesa Extremadura and Baja TT Sharish Gin along with a second at the Hungarian Baja, while Ghislain’s top three results would be just two wins (Rally Greece OffRoad being the first) and a third at the Baja TT Sharish Gin.

Dropped races is not an uncommon quirk in motorsport, and even Formula One utilised it until 1990. The World Rally-Raid Championship, the highest step for cross-country rally above the Bajas, also has it for Rally2 bikes which allows riders to drop or skip a round without penalty.

While such a rule is designed to not punish those who are forced to miss a round or are set back by an predicament like retirement, Guillaume feels only counting three races in a five-round season is too lax. Should Dias elect to skip the Baja Troia Türkiye, he argues, it decreases the importance of races after the title had been secured.

“Five rounds with only three results: this is something that we can improve. I don’t know if more rounds is one option or more isn’t,” de Mévius commented. “For the drivers, when they do five rounds and only three results count, then they don’t go to the next event. For example, Dias is maybe a champion or my brother will maybe push him to go to the next race, but if Dias is the champion, he will not go to Turkey. This kind of thing, for me, is a shame. When you have a nice European Championship, the competitors have to do all the rounds or the maximum of the rounds. Like this, they go everywhere, and they don’t stop in the middle of the year because they are already a champion. This is the only thing I would maybe like to upgrade a little bit or push to upgrade.”

De Mévius is also open to introducing new trophies for different age groups. He took inspiration from the World Rally Championship, which has the Junior WRC for drivers under twenty-nine years of age and the WRC Masters Cup for those above fifty. The latter is a new addition for 2023, replacing the WRC2 Masters Cup.

The W2RC’s bike categories and the FIM Bajas World Cup also have age-based trophies. The Junior Trophy is given at each round of both championships to the best performing rider under twenty-five, while Veterans Trophy participants are at least forty-five years old.

A similar system exists in some pavement championships like the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, which gives out the Junior Trophy for twenty-five and under drivers. However, de Mévius feels it works best in rally raids as driver competitiveness is on a broader age range than in other disciplines. For example, Claude Fournier is running the full W2RC calendar at the age of seventy-two while Eryk Goczał won the Dakar Rally in T4 as an eighteen-year-old.

“In WRC, in rally you have the WRC2 Championship and WRC2 Master Championship for the guys who want to fight with the same age. This is maybe an option we can create in all the Championships, including Dakar and Baja, to have the young guys fighting each other and the others fighting each other in the same age,” de Mévius opined. “They do this in WRC, and it’s working very well. They have a lot of people coming for that.

“I think this can be a good idea because in rally raid, you have people from all ages coming and racing. This is very nice because experience is important in rally raid. You can see that people continue to drive fast, even if they are not very old, older than in other competitions. In rally and circuit, it’s more challenging to remain competitive as you get older. In rally raid, you can still see older people very competitive, so it’s nice. To push the young guy, having a ‘best rookie of the year’ and stuff can be nice.”

The European and World Cups take place across eleven countries, with some crossover as both have different rounds in Portugal and Spain. De Mévius enjoys the diversity in schedule, but is open to moving some World Cup races like the Italian Baja or Baja Poland to the European Cup to make up for the smaller calendar.

He quickly ruled out his home country of Belgium as a potential host site, but proposed neighbouring France as one instead. The Dakar Rally began in France for much of its history before the event was moved to South America, while the country has long boasted a popular enduro and motocross scene.

“Maybe they have to remove one from the World Championship to go in the European Championship. I don’t know exactly,” he stated. “Italy, it was a nice one. Poland, you can maybe do one race in Poland for the World Championship and one race for the European Championship because there are a lot of races in Poland, for example. I think there are countries in Europe that can propose that, or we do two events, or we move from the World Cup to the European Cup and try to find a good solution.

“It’s not easy. I don’t have the solution, but I think that five or six rounds would be nice for the European Championship. Belgium is not possible. We don’t have the space for that. Maybe France. France can be maybe an option. They have some nice competition in off-road, but not Baja. We have to see. Anyway, it was a very nice year. We still have Turkey to go in one month. It was a very nice year, and very nice races, and very nice organisation. So it was a nice new championship for us to discover, and we will come back.”

De Mévius finished third in T3 at the 2023 Dakar Rally. In June, he placed twelfth overall and won his class at the World Cup’s Baja España Aragón.