Citroën was the master of it, but PSA stablemate Peugeot did it too as did SEAT in the late 1990s and Suzuki a decade later. It’s probably not too unkind to say it worked more effectively for PSA’s duo than it did for the other two, but all four manufacturers staggered their entries into the World Rally Championship.
There’s a case to suggest Volkswagen did it too when it fielded Škoda Fabia S2000s for Sébastien Ogier and whichever driver it chose to evaluate alongside him, but this was to obtain experience of WRC events rather than try its own creation for size.
So discounting VW, Suzuki’s appearances on the Tour de Corse and Wales Rally GB in 2007 with its SX4 WRC was the last time a manufacturer phased its entry into the WRC.
And since Suzuki took the plunge to branch out from its Super 1600 program and fully debut as a WRC team in 2008, four new manufacturers have come in: Mini, Volkswagen, Hyundai and Toyota.
It is no longer commonplace for teams to do what Citroën did in 2001 and ’02 with the Xsara WRC, Peugeot did in 1999 with its 206 WRC and SEAT did in 1998 with the Cordoba WRC. But could it be?
As discussion in the WRC turns towards the new 2022 technical regulations and how to attract new teams into the championship, Hyundai team principal Andrea Adamo thinks a lot can be learned from the past.
“I think that to allow new teams to come in, you maybe let them be in step-by-step like the old days,” he said in the first episode of DirtFish Debates.
“They’re not obliged from the word go to participate in all the events. Maybe allow them to do step-by-step in a two or three year plan, and then we have to see how to manage their points and all this kind of things.
“Maybe now, the situation with so many rallies where we have to see if they remain in the future, to oblige them to start from the word go to do all of the championship may be a bit tricky,” he added.
“To make an example, we all remember what Citroën did when they started in 2001, ‘02 and then in ‘03 they did the world championship. So it could be an idea to let someone to not put all their money on the table in one go.”
Adamo’s counterpart at Toyota, Tommi Mäkinen, agreed but reckons the sport has changed a lot since the turn of the century when manufacturers were adopting that approach.
Mäkinen suggested that making the WRC more attractive to privateers should also be on the to-do-list.
“We all know that it’s very expensive and that it’s a big number of rallies, 14 rounds and maybe plan to do even more. It’s expensive whatever ways we are doing it,” the four-time world champion driver said.
“At the moment it’s pretty difficult for privateers to join. Of course they could, but maybe some more changes for that area to make it easier to even own homologation and own production of the car with the privateers.”