Spanish Report: More Fuel for the WRC Fire

An article published yesterday on spanish website claims that Saab will be joining the WRC for the 2013 season. Now before you all attack me for posting silly conjecture from around the internet tubes, I thought I’d at least diffuse this story before it got around. A rough English translation:

“A good time for poetry. After crossing the desert in the World Rally Championship, we can glimpse light at the end of the tunnel [and it looks like brighter times are ahead]. Even now there are only two brands, Citroen and Ford, Mini is one step of his debut in May in Sardinia and Volkswagen will announce its entry into the next week in Portugal. To complete the party, Saab will also be involved in the spectacular sport with its future compact model, to be called 9-2 or 9-1.

The Swedish brand has been acquired by Dutch sports car maker Spyker, in turn owned by Russian tycoon Vladimir Antonov, a lover of rallies to just buy the company that owns the television rights of the championship, North One’s next step is the introduction of Saab in the World Cup, scheduled for 2013, but could even get ahead of the next season.

The Swedish firm is not new in the sections, and with four wins in the Rally of Sweden, in 1973, 1977 and 1979 by Stig Blomqvist and Per Eklund in 1976. For the moment and have started their bids to different specialty engineers, and have fellow Russian Evgeny Novikov to be ready to pilot the car for the challenge.”

Now before you start salivating (“but Jeff, they even know the driver’s name, it must be true!”) remember the 9-1 isn’t even in the business plan yet. For it to even come to fruition by 2013, when the new 9-3 launches, would be a minor miracle. Undoubtedly work and plans are being hatched behind the scenes in Trollhättan while they decide what partners would make sense for such a model, but until there is an official indication that Saab is closer to a deal, this report is pie in the sky conjecture. I’m not saying I necessarily don’t believe it could happen, just that I’m weary of the source and certainly wondering about their own sources. Hopefully they prove right.

That said this is as good a time as ever to throw the idea out there, if a small Saab is green lighted, do you think it’s a good idea for Saab to immediately get involved with the World Rally Championship? What priority would you place on it, and why? Sound off in comments.


Thanks for the tip Marco!

35 thoughts on “Spanish Report: More Fuel for the WRC Fire”

  1. Well, you could start trying to get confirmation or denial by asking Vladimir Antonov himself about his WRC plans and a possible connection with Saab. VA has commented here a few times in the recent past and his avatar signature contains a UK email address coming back to his racing interests.


    • I’ll definitely be asking Vladimir soon but given the fact that this article doesn’t even mention sources, I thought it would be better just to temper the flames before it got out of hand and treat it more as a “What if?” piece. Even if we got his opinion and it was that he wanted to get Saab into racing, given that there’s no business plan for a small Saab yet I don’t know how able or appropriate it would be for him to comment on it yet. What’s interesting to me is how small Spyker’s sales are how they allow them to be in racing– a maker has to have 25 production models a year to compete in certain circuits, I just read about the Maserati MC12’s production run was a result of this– so it’s almost as if they make just enough cars to be able to join race leagues. Obviously Saab has a completely different business model, but in the end Vladimir’s desire to race is just as strong either way (see Bowler).

      I for one would love to see some rally Saabs, I’d just want the investment to leverage Bowler’s engineering department to offset development costs from Saab. First priority is getting Saab profitable and selling as many cars as possible.

      • I have been seeing other talk of a new small Saab (9-2) in the press as if it is a sure thing (which we all know here it is not…yet). The April issue of Car and Driver magazine has an article about 25 new cars you have to pay attention to (or something like that). Most of them are either newly available this year or are planned models due out in the next year. I looked to see if they mentioned any Saab models and the one they mention is the 9-2. They talk about it as if it is definitely planned, even though no concept or commitment from Saab has been shown. They even listed an expected price!

      • Bowler?? Can you imagine if they actually did that…what it would do to the more normal Rally competion vehicles…can you imagine the affect on the pedigree of the Cross-over XWD kit Saab produces??

        I’m about to weee myself with excitement…again.

        Everyday there are new possibilities and some are so good that they could be self-fullfilling prophesies-why would V.A put together such a powerful cocktail as Bowler WRC and Saab and Spyker and then not do anything with it?

        Too exciting for words!!!

  2. Well this is very interesting, to hear that the rally master will be in the game once again, and it will be a good hit against the major car manufacturers.

    I think that Saab would enter the rally world with a whole new idea of a “Green WRC car” i know it sounds crazy but think of it for an instance (4*4 car powered by bio-ethanol).

    It’s like the old saying: hitting two birds with one stone.

    • Most probably it would be based on the NG 9-3 phoenix platform if it would be ready by then. I would love to see a bio ethanol hybrid in WRC.

  3. I think that Saab should make a Sonett based rally car, reminiscent to the Lancia Stratos and Toyota’s 4WD rally Celicas.
    Tiny 4WD car with two seats and a short wheelbase. And of course, versions will be sold to the public.

  4. Yeah, I agree very conjecture. Sure, I think Saab should go into Rally in the future if they manage to make profit first or at least break-even.

    Step by step. Rally is excellent marketing for a niche brand like Saab with xwd credentials. Here in Brazil, Mitsubishi sold well because of their “Paris-Dakar” history and that many Brazilians are off-road fans (well the roads here are crap so you have no choice .. haha).

    Obviously, the brazilian market is getting more and more established so easy-marketing techniques are becoming less and less effective. Still, for name recognition for Saab down here (which is pretty much non-existant), Rally driving would be a great ally.

  5. The recent WRC cars are really, really small. Is the proposed 9-1/9-2 that small?

    Anyway, if Saab should go that route, I would like to see the Phoenix structure with electric four-wheel-drive in a short, cocky Saab 9-1. Black, like the SUHRT 99 Turbo. Driven by someone that calls attention, Mattias Ekström comes to mind.

      • …and while we are dreaming – why not get Kimi Räikkönen and Robert Kubica.
        That’s gonna get the world take notice… 🙂

        • Why do you find those two unlikely? The Saab team could consist of one driver whose a celebrity (Samuelson for example) and the other could be an actually good rally driver. Those two combined: a really big name and another guy who actually gets good times would be the ultimate PR!

          • I’m sorry if you got that impression. I was not trying to put you down, I was just dreaming. 🙂

            Your idea is not bad at all.

  6. Two reasons why I like this;
    1. Saabs rally history and previous successes
    2. I dont really care for F1 and the like, but rallye is a proof of sound design and reliable construction and solid build. It translates directly and indirectly into production cars and build brand image and awareness.
    Saab and WRC – I say GO!

    • …is a proof of sound design and reliable construction and solid build. It translates directly and indirectly into production cars and build brand image and awareness.

      Same goes for F1 and Le Mans Series (in which Spyker has been successful) etc.

      • Le Mans, yes, but my personal opinion is that F1 is way to extreme to really give anything substancial to normal motorists and vehicles. However, there seem to be forces within F1 to make it less extreme in terms overly expensive and exotic tech and even moving to “limited resources”, ie limit the amount of fuel, tires etc, over a race, displacement to smaller engines, even fuel and propulsion. This could (maybe) make me more interested….
        Again, just IMHO…

        • And hybrid systems, my guess is that the reintroduction of KERS in F1 will make hybrid systems develop 10 times faster than they´d normally would.

  7. Does SAAB actually need to have a roadgoing version to make a WRC rally car? Sorry my possible ignorance here, but I thought the top end cars only have looks in common with production models and that they effectively are small series prototypes. The PhoeniX concept would make a good looking rally car, allthough the drivetrain will need to fit with the WRC spec to be competitive.

    • Yes, they have to be produced in certain numbers, I did also dream about the Phoenix beeing the “Stratos” of today.

  8. I think they should go in with the current 9-3. It wouldmaybe loose a lot compared to the current small cars, but the old subaru imprea was about 4400 mm, saab 9-3 is 4600.

    I don’t think you should use a swedish driver, the saab rally will get enough attention in sweden anyway. Maybe a russian, german, or english combination driver/co-driver would be the best.

      • A driver from India or China then if that’s what counts? These are today’s two biggest automotive markets. And, alas, the same markets where Saab sells zilch. Nothing. At all. And won’t in the foreseeable future, at least where India is concerned. VM said so himself.

        I guess the Indians or the Chinese would go absolutely crazy should one of them place first in the world rally championship. A salesman’s paradise is the next stage.


        • What about a talented driver.

          But anyhow the current 9-3 would look like a pre-historical monster side by side with the DS3, Fiesta, Countryman or maybe the Polo next year.

  9. It should be a recognisavble translation of the highest seller so probably 9-3 type car-to maximise recognition and possible sales-always good to have a Swede behind the wheel to emphasise the roots of the brand.

  10. Hmmm…….”green lighted” could eventually be interpreted in different ways:

    a) signed off, and approved for production;
    b) emission “friendly”, meeting or aiming to meet, stringent coming EU regulations.

    Nevertheless, none of the adorable F1 teams are running on E85 or “biodiesel”. The rationale IMHU for a WRC participation is twofold – mechanical endurance testing, and a HUGE PR thing.

    SAAB has a remarkable past track record in rally victories, and let’s be supportive and openminded enough to let SAAB participate in “serious” events for product testing / development.

    In terms of “emissions”, the same amount of “poison” would be spewed on circling the Nurnburgring for weeks on end, without hitting the real life second or third quality grade road conditions found in most sales markets these days.

    SAAB is very much aware of the importance of moving towards “fresh air” exhausts in their key markets, so I would be in favour of supporting them in participating in the WRC, primarlily considering the tremendous value coming from “non-paid” media world wide coverage.


  11. Rally is cool. Driver should be Scandinavian on Russian.
    Also rally is great thing for testing body structure, xwd system, gearbox, engine and any other parts. Much closer to real life driving than F1 type of races.

  12. If you see the competition like the volvo c30 polestar WRC
    its alsmost to good to be true to see a Saab challenge that kind of power..
    but its good commercial if you get high up in the ranks so it all depends on how good
    they do it.

  13. In the good old days of NASCAR racing in the U.S., the good old days being a time when the cars on the track resembled cars available in dealerships, manufacturers always said “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.”

    When I think about Saab’s racing heritage – Eric Carlsson’s rallye wins, along with all the SCCA trophies won by various drivers – I think of production cars. Carlsson drove 92s, 93s, 96s and the Sonnett. They looked like production cars. Were they tweaked? Probably. Just as the 900 Turbo that won the 1979 SCCA Showroom Stock “A” Championship, beating such cars as the Porsche 924, Datsun (Nissan) 280Z and Alfa Romeo Spyder, was no doubt tweaked, too.

    I’d love to see Saab winning races. But in cars customers can actually buy. Unless, of course, the cars being raced are cars that are foreshadowing the arrival of a new model.

  14. High priority, but only when a short wheelbase vehicle becomes available. A long wheelbase car will quickly be destroyed in the current WRC, too many jumps, etc.
    Even a boring Subaru can become a hotcake seller because of the WRC, the PR of new Saabs rallying cannot be overestimated.

  15. Pertinent comment from “Bolleta” from the original article:

    I don’t know where you’ve gotten this information, since Saab has not made this announcement, and the 9-2 or 9-1 are not in Saab’s future model portfolio, since, per Victor Mullen, the company’s owner, there is no money for their development, although these are projects that are on the table… I’d really like to see Saab return to rallies, since they are an iconic brand which are crossing a commerical desert right now, and I think this is an orginal brand with its own ideas, it should suvive within a global manufacturer… I hope your source is reliable

    No sé de donde has sacado esta información, ya que Saab no se ha pronunciado al respecto, y el modelo 9-2 o 9-1, no figura en el portfolio de modelos futuros de Saab, ya que, segun Victor Muller, propietario de la compañía, no hay dinero para desarrollarlo, aunque se trata de un proyecto que está sobre la mesa… realmente me gustaría que Saab volviera a los rallyes, ya que se trata de una marca icónica que está pasando por un desierto comercial en estos momentos, y opino que una marca original y de propias ideas,debe sobrevivir dentro de un mar de fabricantes globales…ojalá tu fuente sea fiable…

  16. When we did an interview with VM (Saabclub Holland’s magazine Saabberichten) ofcourse we couldn’t resist this question. VM told us (tongue in cheek) that he had shot every interviewer so far who asked that question. It would just be to costly. Then we rephrased the question and asked if Saab would take part in World Rallying if Saab would make a profit again. The answer was: “Yes, Saab belongs there.” Fingers crossed!!

  17. SUHRT are following every that touches rallying or racing of course.
    Just to clarify some issues. Bowler is not a big operation with a big engineering department it is quite as small business with a tiny building and the cars coming out are not two alike.
    To be in WRC one has to make 25000 cars according to FIA. You must be able to prove in some way You will be selling that quantity. Saab made 200 cylinderheads for the 70ies 99 EMS for rally homologation at the end the only made aprox. 30 complete engines….
    SUHRT are about to bring in people with years of F1 experience to the team… will have talks in London next week.
    Until Saab has gotten their tail in gear for the big stuff we plan to line up the following rally cars for this years
    – 1978 SAAB 99 Turbo CC Black “Stig Blomquist RAC Rally 1978”
    – 1978 SAAB 99 Turbo CC White “Per Eklund RAC Rally 1978”
    – 1980 SAAB 99 Turbo Sedan black “Stig Blomquist Swedsh Rally 1978”
    – 1980 SAAB 99 Turbo Sedan Blue “Stig Blomquist Swedish Rally 1981”
    – 1976 SAAB 99 EMS Black “Stig Blomquist RAC rally 1976”
    – 1974 SAAB 99 L white

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