Unraveling the WRC’s big decision day

Wednesday delivered some of the most significant proposed changes in the recent history of the WRC. Here's the explainer...

Adrien Fourmaux

Evolution. Not revolution. But resolution. That’s good. The FIA’s WRC Working Group has spoken.

World Rally Champions turned rule makers Robert Reid and David Richards, have drawn the series a roadmap towards a brighter future. The headlines – as you would have seen from our earlier story – include no more hybrid in Rally1, quicker Rally2 cars, further revised tech regs for 2026 (likely to be noted as the return for the World Rally Car) and the implementation of an electric category (with performance equalisation) as soon as the FIA’s technical department can figure it out.

Good. But what does all that mean? Let’s dissect it.

Rally1 cars will be slower with the loss of the 130bhp hybrid powerboost and a reduction in the current 36mm turbo air restrictor. Currently, Rally1 internal combustion offers 380bhp and that’s expected to be cut to 330bhp for next season. Shorn of the hybrid componentry, however, the cars will be 100 kilos lighter than the current 1,260kg.

Will you and I notice them being much slower? Not really.

Will they look more spectacular? Yes. With less aerodynamic downforce and the same limited transmission technology, the cars are going to be moving around more.

No doubt, the drivers will be disappointed at not launching 510bhp off the line, but the changes make sense. Relieving Rally1 of the temperamental electrified element reduces the infrastructure needed on event by both the teams running the cars and the organisers preparing rallies for them to run on.

The 2025-spec Rally1 car will be more straightforward to run and cheaper. If you’re a private driver looking to hire or buy a top-level car for the world championship, today brought only good news.


Rally1 and Rally2 cars will be closer than ever from next season

But wasn’t it supposed to be Rally1 minus or Rally2 plus? Both were given plenty of consideration for the premier category. What we’ve got now could be argued as the best of both worlds. Rally1 is slower, safer and more spectacular while Rally2 offers that bit more power to bring it closer to the top tier. How often did we hear drivers pondering the apparently yawning gap between the WRC’s top two categories?

If you’re a career rally driver looking to progress in the sport, today brought only good news.

Personally, I like the Rally2 WRC kit plan (estimated to be priced at around €5,000 or US$5400). This offers clear demarcation for the FIA’s regional series – the regular Rally2 car can remain at the very forefront of the European Rally Championship, for example.

And electric? Groovy. Let’s see how that one shakes out and, more pertinently, how quickly it can be shaken out. Having recently dived into mountain biking’s dark side with the arrival of a Trek Rail, I’m all about the wattage.

The return of the World Rally Car? Happy days. Must admit I wasn’t entirely against the Rally1 moniker, but I think you’re probably aware I’m enough of a traditionalist to appreciate the World Rally Car.

Rac Rally Cheltenham (GBR) 23-25 11 1997

Nothing shouts World Rally Car like Colin McRae and a Subaru Impreza WRC97 charging through a Welsh forest

Retaining the FIA-designed and derived safety cell and tubular chassis makes complete sense for 2026. Data – and Thierry Neuville’s whopping roof-first fall off an Alp – tells us this is the base for the safest rally cars in history. Stepping back to a production car shell would be a complete nonsense. And horribly restrictive. Retaining the scalable body is a no-brainer.

What goes under the hood remains to be seen. But it will be seen soon enough.

The other news? A WRC Promotion Team? What’s not to love. I think we can be in agreement we need to shout a little louder about what we do. And good to see the Team coming with teeth – a WRC Charter will define a set of commitments for all stakeholders to promote the WRC to a wider audience. And there will be measurables in the shape of a set of objectives and key performance indicators.

In terms of the events, the ball has been passed into the organiser’s court. So, come on, somebody smash it out of the park with a sensational itinerary that works on every level. Let’s get creative.

Personally, I still don’t get the slavish obsession with a Sunday powerstage. Remind me, what was the sporting occasion held up as the absolute appointment view for television? Was it a Formula 1 race? Thought so. And what time does the F1 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix start on Sunday? It doesn’t. It’s on Saturday.

Let’s get it. David Evans

Restrictions on team personnel makes sense as does the new service park infrastructure. Don’t get me wrong, Hyundai’s super-structure is impressive, but is it necessary for the function of the team? Not really. The space required for all departments can be created locally for a lot less cash. There’s a small concern about the service park looking a little bit homogenous, but no doubt the teams will find a way of getting creative with their white space.

I’m all for a more mobile service park. Last year’s Central European Rally robbed us of anything remotely resembling a half-decent night’s sleep, but it was worth it. We took the sport to three countries and we did that with a sense of adventure. Let’s see some linear routes. Come on, I dare you.

No, no, you’re probably right. It would make it so much harder to promote and generate content for an event which doesn’t return to a central location at the end of every day. Hang on, isn’t there a bike race, something to do with France and a tour that manages this? Every. Single. Year.

Yes, there’s meat to be put on the bones, but in delivering a strategy and a roadmap, Reid and Richards have not only offered a glimpse into the future of the World Rally Championship, they’ve challenged everybody to come together and work for it.

In the words of the youth, let’s get it.