Why ARA didn’t just adopt Rally2 rules for 2023

ARA technical director Doug Nagy answers DirtFish's questions on the new 2023 O4WD rules

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, by now you’ll have read that the American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National championship’s technical regulations are changing next season in the top Open 4WD class.

Gone are the World Rally Cars and current spec Subarus and in their place will be cars more in line with Rally2 vehicles with the aim of reducing costs and allowing more competitors to fight at the front of the field

O4WD will still allow teams and competitors elements of freedom however, and so they will differ from their RC2 class counterparts.

For a full overview of what’s changing, hit this link here.

But what does all of that really mean? We got hold of ARA technical director Doug Nagy to answer some key questions about the ARA’s new direction.

Now that the regulations have been announced, what is your job now?

Our job now is to formalize the guidelines we have published into actual rules in the rulebook. Our plan is to have the formal rules ready to publish by the end of summer so teams can have ample time to make final adjustments.

We need to have rules that are understandable by competitors and measurable at events with reasonable tech equipment. We also need to spend some time educating competitors on our intent and interpretation of the rules so they have a clear understanding of what is required.

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How long did it take to design these new regulations?

We actually started working on these rules two years ago. We paused for a bit to clean up the current O4WD rules, and then continued on with our plans.

Talk us through the various elements that competitors can change to make a car comply

The power reduction rules are pretty straightforward. Teams will need to have a new restrictor size and boost limit. We are allowing competitors options on how to comply with the new boost limits, with either a boost monitor as we currently use or the FIA pop off valve as used in the RC2 cars.

The boost limit is the same now for both. The O4WD cars running NA engines will have the restrictor size re-evaluated to be brought in line with the new power levels.

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What input have existing teams and competitors had in the process? And what’s the feedback been so far?

We have had several discussions with existing teams and shared draft versions of these guidelines with generally a positive response. Most of the questions have been around getting clarity on the intentions.

Many of the responses have been positive as the teams felt that this would help with the development budgets moving forward. With the overall pace required being reduced it allowed the teams to make better choices for overall performance instead of outright speed.

Have you received any concepts or designs from teams already?

We have received a couple of conceptual questions that we are looking at but no formal submissions as it is very early in the process.

Are the bodywork/aero rules based on a pre-existing ruleset from somewhere or completely bespoke?

We took a look at existing regulations for several series around the world and tried to come up with a ruleset that would allow some freedom to bring a vehicle from another series, but still allow competitors in the US to build their own cars. We feel these guidelines are much more in line with what is being run nationally around the world.

Can you explain the reasoning for adapting O4WD rather than just making RC2 the top class?

The United States has always had a strong history of building our own cars and we didn’t want to move away from that. Part of what makes rally such an engaging sport for many in the US is the freedom to build their own cars.

RC2 cars are based on European models and temporary importation has proven to be a challenge for US based teams to work around.

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What performance differential do you anticipate compared to this year’s O4WD cars, and likewise to RC2 cars?

Our goal is to have O4WD cars perform at the same level as RC2 cars. Since we are not changing the RC2 car rules, their performance will stay the same and the O4WD cars will be reduced to the same performance level.

As the cars are different and have different specifications, I would expect the RC2 cars to have different performance advantages and disadvantages depending on the event and nature of the stages they were competing on.

Overall, the idea is that by the end of the season there is a balance that makes for an exciting season and championship.

Words:Luke Barry