With the 2022 World Rally Championship regulations set to reduce the speed of Rally1 spec cars, the chance of the current World Rally Cars continuing into the new era are limited, as David Evans explains.
Unless there’s a radical, last-minute change in the specification of 2022 Rally1 machinery, the thinking is that the next generation will be slower than the cars sitting front and center at next week’s Rally Estonia.
The combination of 100-odd kilos of extra weight for hybrid motors and batteries, transmission and aero restrictions and a more economic suspension solution are certainly not going to make the new cars any quicker.
Granted, a fully charged boost of 150bhp in some sections would improve that power-to-weight ratio, but on the whole, the cars will be slower.
It’s with full knowledge of that potential dip in performance that the decision has been taken to restrict the use of the current Rally1 cars.
When next year’s WRC is wrapped up – wherever and whenever that will be – today’s cars will have no world championship tomorrow. In WRC terms, they’ll be confined to history for fear that they could overshadow the new kids on the block come Monte Carlo, 2022.
My immediate reaction is indignance. How can the FIA and WRC Promoter do this?
Yes, Group B was banned because it was too fast. It was also banned because it was out of control and killing people. The same simply can’t be said about today’s Rally1 formula.
Poised and ready to write this column about privateers being robbed of their potential 15 minutes of fame, I paused and thought longer. And harder.
And the FIA’s right. We have to look after the very pinnacle of rallying and seeing manufacturers (manufacturers who have just invested millions in the latest [in WRC terms] tech) being beaten by last year’s car in the hands of a local hero wouldn’t do any of us any favors long-term.
Yes, yes, you’re right, we should be doing all we can to encourage privateers to compete and shoot for the stars, but we must be realistic here. Firstly, there have been precious few private entries in the world championship since 2017 – and those cars aren’t suddenly going to get any cheaper to maintain and run. Secondly, at a time when manufacturers are having to justify every cent in terms of marketing spend, we need to make sure the value being derived is as high as possible.
That value is what will – hopefully – maintain current levels of manufacturer interest, while simultaneously showing the series in the best light possible to bring new makes.
And, don’t forget, FIA rally director Yves Matton has insisted all along that the next generation cars must come in around €500,000, which would actually make them cheaper than the current cars anyway. It’ll take time for cars to drip down into private teams for hire, but when they get there, they should be a more viable option for privateers.
So, what will happen to the current cars? They can’t really transfer into the 2022 season – don’t forget chassis are going tubular and everything changes from inside-out in terms of Rally1. The expectation is that the cars will continue to be permitted for use at a national level. And maybe, moving forward, if they are faster than the 2022 cars, a smaller restrictor than the current 36mm could be deployed to peg them back slightly before letting them into the WRC?
But for young guns chasing a career in the bigtime, surely, a win against the big boys is all the more worthy if it comes on a level playing field?