Group N cars such as the Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Lancer that currently form the basis of the European Rally Championship’s ERC2 class will no longer have their own titles to fight after 2021 as the new Rally3 cars become the class’s focus.
The staple of the Production World Rally Championship from the 1990s through to the series’ end in 2012, Group N has since been replaced on the global and national stage by the FIA’s ‘Group R’ regulations.
Those have already evolved since their introduction just over a decade ago, with the categories of machinery below World Rally Cars now mapped out as the four-wheel-drive Rally2 and Rally3, and the two-wheel-drive Rally4 and Rally5 aimed at younger and less experienced drivers.
An ERC statement said that “while ERC2 car eligibility remains unchanged for 2021 with drivers in Group N, RGT and Rally2 Kit machinery permitted to score points, it is planned that from 2022, ERC2 will be for Rally3 cars only subject to WMSC approval.”
This change continues efforts to standardise championships’ entries onto the ‘R’ class formats.
“Rally3 was made for multiple targets. It’s made for gentlemen drivers who don’t have anything to replace their Group N cars,” FIA Regional Rally category manager Jerome Roussel told DirtFish earlier this year.
“If you have an old Subaru or Mitsubishi, it becomes difficult to find some spare parts, and if you want a more modern car, this car will be perfect to replace it. So it’s good for gentlemen drivers.”
Drivers in ERC2 have tended not to be the rising talents aiming for the WRC, but more often those who have old Group N cars and want to keep them competing, drivers with the first generation of Rally2 cars not competing for overall success, or drivers of Group R-GT cars such as the new Alpine A110.
Roussel suggested in his DirtFish interview that Rally3 would fill a stepping stone role currently absent in such championship.
“It’s good also for young drivers who want to progress because when you are very fast in your Rally4, the step to Rally2 is maybe quite difficult. So Rally3 will be a good opportunity to learn the four-wheel-drive driving, at a lower cost,” Roussel added at the time.
“Rally3 was really created to have more FIA cars outside of Europe. I take care of the African championship for example and there is only one or two Rally2 cars.
“After that we have all Group Ns but the guys with Group Ns feel they cannot compete against the Rally2 cars, so the championship is not very balanced.
“We could consider moving the championship to Rally3 because we know that we could have 10 or 15 people able to buy Rally3 cars and have a proper fight, because at the end that’s what we need.”
Although the Group N cars can still score overall ERC championship points once they are ousted from ERC2 in 2022, as Roussel proposed, they are unlikely to be finishing in the overall top 10 often once Rally3 cars arrive on the scene.
ERC3 will remain a two-wheel-drive class catering for Rally4 and Rally5 cars for 2022 and beyond, but its Junior classification also looks like it’s in for a shake-up as the World Motor Sport Council has decided that ERC Junior will only be for Rally3 cars next year.
An announcement on ERC Junior’s future is expected soon.