Marcello Lotti, the Motorsport Director of the FIA World Touring Car Championship, has left his post after his contract was not renewed.
The running of the WTCC will now be assumed by former Chevrolet Europe Motorsport Director Eric Nève and Eurosport Events’ Francois Ribeiro.
The circumstances surrounding Lotti’s departure are not fully clear. Suffice to say, the Italian – a former rally co-driver – has been instrumental in the championship’s resurgence since it was reborn in 2005.
Its roots began with Lotti’s appointment as the head of the then Italian Superturismo Championship at the end of 1999, following on from which he became the series’ promoter and successfully approached the FIA to upgrade the championship’s status, first into the European Super Touring Car Cup, which later became the European Touring Car Championship, the direct forerunner to the WTCC.
Lotti’s departure comes on the eve of the most significant changes in the championship’s history, with the introduction of vastly new technical regulations encouraging the likes of Citroën to compete alongside incumbent manufacturers, Honda and LADA, in addition to RML-developed Chevrolets.
The decision seems to have come at the behest of Eurosport Events, which is contracted by the FIA to run the WTCC until 2017.
Its internal promotion of Ribeiro – who has successfully redeveloped the Eurosport-run FIA European Rally Championship – is therefore of little surprise.
Nève’s comeback will be welcomed by many. Nève headed Chevrolet’s works-supported involvement in the WTCC – which saw it rise to dominate the championship – until the end of 2012, when the carmaker opted to withdraw its manufacturer support from the category. He moved on to take up a position in HWA Mercedes’ DTM programme, but will return in a consultancy role for the WTCC.