The paradox that risks killing Rally2-plus before it begins

Rally1 manufacturers fear threat of upgraded Rally2 cars but class may require performance parity to attract entrants


Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala has admitted the potential for Rally2 cars trumping Rally1 cars under proposed new regulations is a cause for concern.

The FIA’s WRC Working Group has suggested removing hybrid and reducing the power from current Rally1 cars from a peak of 510bhp to around 330bhp in time for next year.

At the same time, Rally2 cars fitted with a new WRC kit would have power output boosted to around 300bhp – but crucially the lighter cars could come with improved aero and a paddle shift.

Asked if he thought the second-tier cars could win WRC events outright, Latvala told DirtFish: “If the regulations are going like they suggest, there is a risk.


Latvala has concerns about proposed Rally2-plus cars being capable of winning overall

“For the private teams, it could be a great idea. But, for the manufacturer who wants to build the car to win the World Rally Championship, do they want to see the car run out of the garage beating your product in which you’ve invested a lot of money? It raises questions.

“I know we are struggling with not so many cars in the main class and giving the opportunity to fine-tune the Rally2 car… I can see the positive – we have more cars, potentially, in the main class. But slowing down the Rally1 and boosting the Rally2? We need to find the balance.

“For example, if the Rally2 cars are having the paddle shift, I don’t think that’s right for those cars to have more technology than Rally1. The technology needs to be consistent – and anyway, bringing the paddle shift [for Rally2] is going to increase the cost in a category designed for privateers.”

On the other side of the fence stand the privateers that could benefit from the regulation change. DirtFish reached out to several competitors in WRC2 as well as national-level Rally2 drivers to get a feel for how much interest there might be in Rally2-plus cars fitted with the proposed WRC kit.

A common theme among most responses puts them at direct odds with Latvala’s concerns; the interest in Rally2-plus is driven by potential equality with factory Rally1 machines.

Hyundai WRC2 driver Emil Lindholm, who won the second-tier WRC series back in 2022, is one of the obvious candidates who could take advantage of such a regulation change. He’s entering his fourth consecutive year as a full-time entrant in WRC2 but is yet to get a chance in a top-level car.

“I like the concept and I believe it’ll at least bring privateers back to the top level of rallying,” said Lindholm.

“Another topic is how competitive these Rally2-plus cars will be against future factory Rally1s, and if they’ll be more expensive to run than the current ones. If they are competitive, I wouldn’t see much point in running a plain Rally2, other than costs perhaps.

“But if you can’t fight for the good results with the kit, it makes no sense to me.”

That last element of performance parity between Rally1 and Rally2-plus was echoed by fellow Hyundai i20 N Rally2 pilot Teemu Suninen. But Suninen was also keen to point out that the long-term success of Rally2 means the existing formula in WRC2 needs to be protected.

“WRC2 is an excellent class for being the second-highest level of competition,” said Suninen, who is taking on a part-time campaign in the series this year.

“There’s no need to change it. Bringing Rally1 closer to Rally2 without any steps in between should be the goal; WRC2 is already a good second level that doesn’t need change.

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WRC2 driver Suninen foresees Rally2-plus flopping if it can't compete with Rally1

“If Rally2-plus is competitive against Rally1 cars, then it’s possibly worth considering. But it needs similar rules to equalize power, weight and aerodynamics.

“Without this I’m worried it will be as popular as the restricted 2017-era World Rally Car after Rally1 was introduced – and there were zero of these on any start list. You need cars; competition is good for the championship.

“We could have 10-15 cars and there are local heroes creating new stories; there’s always differentiation between factory and customer cars. We need more drivers and compelling stories, not the same four or five Rally1 cars battling each other. More cars in the field would help the Rally1 drivers garner more respect too.”

Another driver that the proposed new Rally2-plus car could benefit is current WRC2 championship leader Oliver Solberg. Making it back to the top level is the clear number-one goal for the Swede – but he doesn’t want the second tier to change.


WRC2 Sweden winner Solberg is a fan of the existing formula

“In my opinion, Rally2 is perfect as it is,” said Solberg. “There is a reason why so many can afford to drive it and why there are so many of the cars. I think it’s more important that WRC regulations are changing instead of the Rally2 regulations. But OK, it’s difficult for me to say what the right thing is.”

Like his Finnish rivals, Solberg doesn’t see the point of Rally2-plus if it’s still slower than Rally1: “If Rally2-plus is slower than Rally1… that’s what I don’t understand. I don’t understand the middle thing; what’s the goal?”

Solberg, perhaps sensibly, isn’t taking a strong stance on what the future of the WRC should look like. He’s leaving that to the rule makers. Whatever ruleset delivers an increase in top-level manufacturers is what he’ll be happy with.

“If it makes it possible for more manufacturers to get into Rally1, it’s very good for us. It’s a big opportunity for drivers like me,” he said.

“There are more part-time drivers than full-time drivers, so obviously something needs to change. What that is, I don’t know.”