Norwegian drivers are having a hard time, or harder time than in previous years, securing a budget to go racing in the European Rallycross Championship. When RallycrossWorld spoke to a handful of the most prominent racers yesterday, a common statement from them was that it was much more difficult now than it had been in Martin Schanche’s day. Schanche, the man who emerged from the north and conquered Europe single-handed. Whose success in Europe is largely responsible for immense popularity of Rallycross in Norway. Who continues, more than a decade after he quit racing, to cast a long shadow over the sport. The driver whose success, flamboyance, presence, earned him the sobriquet “Mr Rallycross”.
So, what does he think of that, was it easy to get money and media coverage in his day? “No!” he says with conviction, “It was never easy. The difference between then and now is that even though there was less air time available when I was racing, I knew that if I got results I would get some air time. So I made sure I got results. Now even the ones who get results don’t get any real air time because there are so many other sports all trying to fill up that air time.”
Warming to his theme, Schanche indicates that perhaps some of those looking for money now are not dedicated enough to the task at hand. “I real can’t say that it was ever easy. I had absolutely **** all backing when I got my first title in 1978, after that I got some money from Ford and some from Valvoline, but I had to go and get the title first and by doing that I put Norway on the motor sport map.
“I worked every hour I could and I never borrowed a penny to go racing. I had no house, no cottage, nothing social in my life, just my race car a trailer I made myself and an old Mercedes estate car that I towed it with. I can’t tell you how many nights I spent on the back seat of that Mercedes but I did not have money for hotels. Or the times I got off the ferry from Denmark still with 300km to drive in Norway and just ten pounds in my pocket. Others laughed when I arrived in the paddock and put up my little two-man tent, but then they realised that I was spending all my money on the race car and that I was beginning to get results. Even then I could not afford to buy new parts and it was thanks to people I met like Ron Douglas and John Welch who showed me where to buy second hand parts that I was able to build a decent car. Maybe I was just more hungry than these guys now!”
Schanche does, of course, accept that times have changed but is firmly of the belief that you get out of life what you put in. “I don’t envy them today, but no-one made me go racing, I chose to do it and I did everything possible to make sure that I could go racing. That the same today, no-one has made any of the drivers out do it, they have all chosen it for themselves,” he says.