The World Rally Championship will adopt a brand new structure for all of its support championships from 2022, bringing an end to a dedicated support series for two-wheel-drive cars at the top level.
While two-wheel-drive cars with Rally4 and Rally5 homologation will still be permitted to enter WRC events, Rally4 – which currently serves as the backbone of the single-make Junior WRC series – will no longer have its own support series at world level.
It marks the end of the WRC having a dedicated two-wheel-drive support championship for the first time since 1993, when the 2-Liter World Championship for Makes was introduced.
At Friday’s World Motor Sport Council meeting, the FIA announced WRC support categories will now fall in line with the recently revised technical regulation pyramid, with all Rally2 cars grouped together in the WRC2 series.
The merge ends a split between manufacturer and privateer entries that began in 2019 with the introduction of WRC2 Pro.
The new-for-2021 Rally3 formula will gain its own category, inheriting the WRC3 moniker from the outgoing Rally2 privateer series.
Both the WRC2 and WRC3 categories will be split into two separate classes: Open and Junior. The former will be unrestricted in entry criteria, while the Junior series is limited to under-30s in WRC2 and under-29s in WRC3.
Drivers who win the two brand new Junior championship titles will no longer be allowed to compete in those classes in following years, require to either move up a level or compete in the same category’s Open class.
Under the previous system WRC2 also included a manufacturers’ championship; this has now been replaced by a teams’ championship, while WRC3 will also include a teams’ championship of its own.
The FIA also announced two other awards for rookie and older drivers.
“For both the WRC and ERC classifications, awards for Rookies, with less than three participations before the start of the season, and Masters, for drivers over 40 years old not included on the FIA Regional Priority List, will be created,” read the World Motor Sport Council decision.
There are similar structural changes to the European Rally Championship, cementing its position as a direct stepping stone to WRC.
Rally2 will continue to be the continental series’ top level, while ERC3 – which currently hosts Rally4 and Rally5 machinery – will become the main contest for Rally3 cars.
Rally4 and Rally5’s highest-profile standalone championship will now be at continental level in ERC4, where the two formulas have been combined into a single contest.
ERC’s junior series will continue with their existing age limit structure, with a cap of 28 years old on ERC3 Junior and 27 years old on ERC4 Junior.
However the ERC2 category, which currently serves Group N machinery like the Mistubishi Lancer and Subaru Impreza, plus R-GT cars and Rally2 Kit cars, will fold at the end of 2021 and will not be replaced.
Instead, a standalone category for R-GT cars will be created, while Group N and Rally2 Kit cars will only be counted in the overall ERC classification.
That marks an unexpected change for the ERC, which had stated in Jaunary its hope to use ERC2 as its Rally3 category and ERC3 for Rally4 and Rally5 cars subject to FIA approval.