Has the WRC made the right decision to keep Rally1?

Current technical regs will remain in force for two more years - and David Evans reckons it's the right call


The debate opened on the Azerbaijani shores of the Caspian Sea, reverberated around the world and was concluded in the Silk Road city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

In six months, we’ve gone from Rally1 to Rally2, to Rally2+ to Rally1 minus hybrid, and back to Rally1. When Mohammed Ben Sulayem established the WRC Working Group in December, he wanted Robert Reid and David Richards to go on an exhaustive rummage through every aspect of the sport. They’ve done just that. They offered solutions and suggestions, but ultimately the stakeholders voted to go with what they know: the status quo.

It’s impossible not to feel a degree of sympathy for the FIA. There’s an element within these same stakeholders that, not so long ago, stamped their feet and demanded action. The FIA just needed to do… something.

So, something was done. In fact, lots of things were done. There will be more news on the sporting regulation changes soon and, of course, the promotion of the series has already picked up from the top of the season.

But fundamentally, was it the right plan to stay with what we’ve got? Yes.

In the beginning, I wasn’t convinced. I was in favor of the Rally2 plan – especially when the simple and seemingly straightforward upgrade kit was suggested (albeit at an entirely unrealistic price of €5000).

February brought news of a compromise. Hybrid would be gone, much to the bewilderment of parts supplier Compact Dynamics (with whom the stakeholders had signed a contract extension until the end of 2026 just a few months earlier). Also leaving the chat was much of the Rally1 car’s aero and under-the-hood power (courtesy of a narrower air intake for the turbo).

What would be left would be a shadow of Rally1’s former self. And all of that power and downforce-generated control would be heading in the direction of Rally2.The plan was to converge the two categories, making it less difficult for a privateer to step in and win a round of the World Rally Championship against factory-level competition.

Was that ever going to happen?

Only one team did its homework properly: Toyota. Ahead of the Croatia Rally, Tom Fowler penned revisions to both his GR Yaris Rally1 and Rally2. Taking from one and giving to the other. The homework was marked, but the results were never really shared much beyond the team admitting, for all the fiddling, nothing would change.

A factory-run Rally1 car would remain beyond the reach of even a very well-driven Rally2.

It was around then that things seriously began to shift for the manufacturers. Yes, they might have asked the FIA to do something. But something else. Not this.


FIA proposals sparked accord between manufacturers

That was when the almost unthinkable happened and the teams got on the same page. Literally. Three technical departments came together, agreed 100% on something and then decided to write to the governing body and tell them.

Ultimately, that was what swung this one. For all the working group’s research and investigation, when the teams said they wanted things to stay the same, it was going to happen. Especially when it was highlighted that the shift from Rally1 to Rally2 might – or might not – go down well with the manufacturers’ bigger cheeses.

I’m still slightly conflicted. I still like the idea of a swashbuckling private Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 driver sweeping Kalle Rovanperä to one side in the style of Franco Cunico’s win on the 1993 Sanremo. The fact I had to think so long and hard on that one is testament to the fact that works teams don’t generally lose at this level.

Rally Sanremo San Remo (ITA) 11-13 10 1993

Will privateers ever have another chance to emulate Franco Cunico’s Sanremo success?

Would teams have come to Rally2+? Yes, I think they would. Importer teams would have fancied their chances and it’s possible we could have recreated the glory days of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. That’s nice, but that’s second tier. That’s not what the world championship’s about.

Whichever way you turn this one, Rally1’s the best way forwards – but we need those sporting changes to motivate the current teams to field more cars, and preferably with an age/experience restriction.

And let’s not forget, these Rally1 cars are the fastest and most spectacular rally cars we’ve ever had. Granted, they’re not pitching and screaming the way Group B might once have done, but in terms of raw speed, shock and awe, what we’ve got now will arguably never be beaten.

And on top of all of that, they’re the safest rally cars in the sport’s history. And that’s very much thanks to the governing body. FIA technical delegate Xavier Mestelan Pinon led the charge on the tubular Rally1 safety cell. Yes, it might be hot, cramped and a touch uncomfortable, but so was a Lancia Stratos. And when it comes to end-over-end I know which car I’d rather be in.

Long story short, this is the right call. Now, enough with the chatter. Let’s focus on a fight which has delivered five winners in six rallies and is looking like the tastiest WRC title scrap in years.