How proposed 2022 WRC rules may change driving styles

M-Sport driver predicts weaker suspension systems and more careful driving


The World Rally Championship’s plans to switch to a more rudimentary suspension set-up for its new 2022 regulation machinery will require a change in driving style from the current crop of WRC drivers, according to M-Sport’s Esapekka Lappi.

Major suspension redesigns were implemented by teams in the last major regulation change in 2017, which required toughening up to cope with the increased loads from added downforce and faster cornering speeds.

Lappi expects suspension systems will be weaker on the new 2022 cars, forcing drivers to ditch constant flat-out driving for a more conservative and selective approach as seen in years past.

“It’s probably not going to be as strong as it is on the current cars,” said Lappi.

“You’ll definitely need to take care more of the car and think about on which sections you can push and which sections you need to really back off slightly. [In] some rough places, for sure it will be more demanding for the car.”

Current Rally2-spec machinery was highlighted as a reference point by Lappi for how the 2022 cars may cope with being pushed to the limit.

“I have experience from the R5 which is definitely weaker than the WRC.

“I lost a couple of times the wheel already on the R5. And now I’ve got used to the go flat out everywhere [style of a World Rally car], so then I’ll need to start to remind myself of four years ago and try to be smart.”

A large disparity in the characteristics between Rally2 and Rally1 machinery has previously been pinpointed by some figures as a near-insurmountable challenge for new WRC drivers.

While suspension changes are expected to dramatically affect the way drivers approach stages from 2022, the switch to a five-speed gearbox is less imperative in six-time world champion Sébastien Ogier’s eyes.

“Regarding the amount of gears for example, I’m not sure that going from six to five reduces any costs, but if [cars] existing already with five that might be the reason,” he said.

“Some manufacturers have ran with four in the past. And Marcus Grönholm has said once that three is enough, so five might be okay!”