Fresh air valves, which were outlawed from being fitted to turbochargers back in August, will be permitted again in the 2021 American Rally Association National season, DirtFish understands.
Following a request from a competitor on the lead-up to August’s Ojibwe Forests Rally, Article 4.1.11 of the ARA technical regulations – which is related to turbochargers and exhaust gases – was clarified.
The clarification prohibited the use of fresh air valves which dump fresh air into the exhaust stream to help keep the turbo spinning when the driver is off the throttle.
Several crews, including Subaru Motorsports USA pairing Travis Pastrana and Brandon Semenuk as well as 2020 ARA National champion Barry McKenna with his Ford Fiesta WRC, have used the device in the past.
Subaru was forced to modify its turbochargers ahead of the Ojibwe rally but it didn’t affect its performance as it still won with Pastrana. McKenna meanwhile was penalized 7m59s after the Show-Me Rally for allegedly breaching the regulations, but his team argued that a bulletin – which ARA organizers said they would issue to all competitors – wasn’t distributed and therefore the rule interpretation was unclear. McKenna’s time penalty was later rescinded.
For the season-ending DirtFish Olympus Rally earlier this month, McKenna switched back to his Škoda Fabia Rally2 and won the rally. Afterwards, he hinted to DirtFish that his Fiesta WRC – which came under scrutiny in Missouri – would be fully legal beyond dispute in 2021.
“I think I would’ve rathered [to] probably come with my Fiesta, the WRC car, to this rally, but the fresh air valve rule isn’t completely clear yet,” McKenna told DirtFish.
“But I’ve been assured that we’re allowed to run it for next year. This rally definitely would’ve suited that car much better.”
DirtFish understands that ARA’s technical director, Doug Nagy, is currently writing the specifics of the rule surrounding the use of fresh air valves which McKenna was alluding to.
Jason Smith, senior vice president of the ARA’s sanctioning body United States Auto Club, has previously told DirtFish that the intention was never to ban fresh air valves forever but simply to clarify the ruling which had been exposed as a “grey area”.
“Moving forward, we don’t know if that’s still going to be the rule because once we have looked into it, the system that brings the external air in has proved to actually be a more reliable part,” Smith said in August when asked why the part was being outlawed.
“Actually it increases the longevity of the motor and internal parts so it’s actually a good piece and performance-wise it has some advantages, not huge but some advantages, so it’s not something that we’re going to rule out.”
DirtFish expects fresh air valves to be confirmed as fully legal systems for the 2021 season.