FIA rally director Andrew Wheatley has targeted enticing four manufacturers to compete in the Rally3 class – a class he believes represents a “huge opportunity” for rallying.
Rally3 is the third rung on the FIA’s rally pyramid, designed to bridge the gap between the four-wheel-drive Rally2 class and front-wheel-drive Rally4 cars.
With a price capped at €105,000, Rally3 has effectively been designed to be the modern day version of Group N as the most affordable route into four-wheel-drive rallying – with cars sharing common components with Rally4 and Rally5.
Currently, M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta Rally3 is the only homologated Rally3 machine but Renault is developing a Clio and has been testing it recently in France.
The news that Renault is developing a rival machine has been greatly received so that the class can offer some variety and competition between different marques.
During a media conference at the recent Rally Spain, Wheatley was asked about Renault’s new Rally3 car and if the FIA had received interest from other manufacturers in the category.
“Personally, I’m pushing really hard on that category because I think there is a huge opportunity with Rally3,” he said.
“The performance that we’ve had with the Fiesta has been really positive and getting cars regularly in the top 15/top 20 of WRC events [has been fantastic].
“It’s a car that uses predominantly standard body parts which means that outside of Europe… when we went to travel to New Zealand, it’s really interesting to see what people’s criteria are when they’re working with vehicles.
“Taking a bumper from Europe to New Zealand at the moment with the current logistics situation is more expensive to transport than the bumper.
“So I think Rally3 has a real opportunity in those non European markets because the performance is good, the cost effectiveness at 105,000 for the basic unit is efficient.
“I saw a video last night of Renault testing with the new car, amazing. And I’ve seen some footage from the Fiesta and of course one of my targets is I believe if we have four manufacturers and each at this level, the pyramid is really dynamic.
“Obviously it’s a new regulation, they’ve got to understand how it works, but that’s clearly a target.”
The 2023 season could be a difficult one across all forms of motorsport though with a global recession expected, so developing a brand-new rally car could very well be the last thing on any manufacturer’s agenda.
Asked if the FIA was concerned about a recession and how that could affect manufacturer interest, FIA deputy president Robert Reid – who was sitting alongside Wheatley – pointed to the recently adjusted cost cap for technical components on Rally2/3/4/5 as an example of how the FIA is reacting to rising costs.
“I won’t bore you with technical details, but it’s IMF G7 indexation which is now twice a year, which allows us to be more agile with that indexation. I think that’s in response to people [being] concerned obviously with the cost of raw ingredients, cost of components, it’s difficult.
“We are a luxury good in some ways, we’re not an essential for people’s lives in terms of motorsport. It would be nice if we avoided a recession – I think it looks more likely the US will avoid recession and I think for Europe it’s a bit more difficult. If we can just keep in the UK a prime minister for more than a few weeks at the moment it might help!
“So yeah it’s a concern but we’re doing all we can. I think it’s tribute to Andrew and his team who have responded, they’ve listened, they’ve understood what the issues are and we’ve tried to do the best that we could.
“The problem is if we index all these kinds of aspects and then we say to the manufacturers ‘OK we need to index on the same basis, they’re not quite so happy’.”
Wheatley added: “It’s a challenge because the other thing we’ve got to bear in mind is we have a very, very strong Rally2 class. And that’s supported globally by a lot of customers, and that’s really important.
“Absolutely fundamental in rallying is not just the top of pyramid, it’s how the rest of it works.”