What difference would 2023 WRC points have made in 2024?

There's some very clear winners and losers from the new points-scoring system so far


We’re four rounds, around the one-third mark, into the 2024 World Rally Championship season. As was the case after the first three rounds, one topic continued to dominate discourse both from the fans and the drivers: the points system.

A highly controversial change to the regulations has split championship points into pre-Sunday and then ‘Super Sunday’, with the powerstage still part of the equation. The natural difficulty in communicating such additional complexity has been one bugbear – but ask the drivers and the big downside is how it devalues a win.

But there’s other factors beyond that too. We’ve totted up what the championship table would have looked like post-Croatia if the 2023 points system were still in place to try and understand the winners and losers – and from that, understand the wider implications of how the system has fundamentally changed what’s important on a WRC round.

Driver '23 Pts '24 Pts Pts +/- Pos +/-
Neuville 75 86 +11
Evans 71 80 +9
Fourmaux 45 59 +14 +1
Tanak 38 53 +15 +2
Ogier 50 45 -5 -2
Katsuta 40 45 +5 -1
Rovanpera 32 31 -1
Lappi 28 23 -5
Mikkelsen 16 14 -2
Solberg 16 12 -4
Munster 6 8 +2 +2

Impact of mistakes and mechanical problems softened

Sunday cruising was the problem this system was targeted to fix. But it’s had another consequence: reliability problems and crashes are more easily papered over.

The single biggest beneficiary from the new calculation method has been Ott Tänak: his 2024 points haul is 28.3% higher relative to what he’d have collected under 2023 rules.

Look at his results and Tänak’s early-season form with Hyundai makes miserable reading: two fourths, an eighth and 41st place. That this can amount to fourth place in the championship – six points adrift of third – is perhaps rather odd. Without Sundays he’d have an even bigger hole to dig himself out of: 60.4% of his points haul to date has been accrued entirely from the Sunday-only classification and powerstage. By his own admission, being the second-highest points scorer in Croatia didn’t make a lot of sense.

Turning to his Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville, it’s also gotten the championship leader out of a spot of bother here and there. Safari is an obvious one: he lost 10 minutes iwth a fuel pressure problem but the new sporting regulations meant he recouped an extra four with his Sunday push. Interestingly, the pre-Sunday segmentation of points has also played into Neuville’s hands. His final morning crash in Croatia would have left him third with 15 points in the old days. But he already had 18 in the bank from Saturday, having led the rally overnight into Sunday. Fourmaux benefited similarly: his broken steering arm from hitting an anti-cut marker would have left him with only five points for winning the powerstage in 2023. Instead, he got 13, having clinched the first eight the day before.

It would have taken Grégoire Munster until Croatia to register his first points of the season; three mistakes in three rallies left him outside the top 10 on each occasion. Under the current system he picked up a bonus on Sunday in Monte Carlo and two in Kenya.

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Sébastien Ogier called the new points system a "joke" after Croatia. He's here to win rallies, not amass points – but he's the one driver that's lost the most from the new system regardless

Winners lose out

Look at the start of the season through a pre-2024 lens and it looks incredibly exciting. Only four points separate the title contenders and four different drivers have won the first four rounds. Amazing.

That latter fact is easy to forget amidst all the noise about points systems. And, funnily enough, the two drivers who’ve lost the most points were two of the rally winners: Sébastien Ogier and Esapekka Lappi, both five down on where they’d have been with similar results 12 months ago.

Curiously it’s also for two very different reasons. In Lappi’s case, his loss was entirely by design. He cruised through Sunday, as Takamoto Katsuta’s Saturday retirement had left him with a very healthy lead and he chose not to pursue Sunday points – he was focused instead on ending a near seven-year wait for what had been an elusive second WRC career win.

This new points system has done what it set out to do – punish Sunday cruising. But it’s also having unintended consequences.

Ogier’s was not by design. He’d spent all of Croatia Rally closely tailing Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans; his gap to the lead barely went beyond 10s at any point during the event. The eight-time champion was undoubtedly pushing on the first two days, given he’d had more than one big moment that risked compromising his rally. His victory was hardly luck, all the prizes – as always – remain at the finish. And staying on the road is the first rule in finding the finish. Ogier’s part-program means he’s in town to chase wins and not worry about collecting points for his own account, leaving Croatia seven down on what would have been his 2023 tally for the same result left something of a sour taste for the Frenchman. And he was third-fastest on Sunday, there was no Lappi-like cruising.

Ultimately, the one metric which proves unequivocally that winning is worth less is the points on the board post round four. Of the four winners so far, only Neuville has landed the same score he would have done the year before when stood on the top step of the podium.

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Neuville's perfect score in Monte Carlo is the only time all season the rally winner has taken 25 points – what a victory used to be worth by default before this season

More points does not mean more prizes

One oddity of this system is that, despite scoring more points under the new system, Takamoto Katsuta has ended up in a worse position.

On both the Monte and in Kenya, Katsuta scored exactly the same number of points he would have achieved previously. He recovered two points on Sunday in Sweden after crashing out of the lead battle on Saturday morning and, in Croatia, finally leveraged the new system to its fullest – going fastest on Sunday.

Consistency allowed Katsuta to hold fourth place in the championship for much of 2022 before Evans eventually caught up with him. But consistency has hurt him this time around: Tänak’s stellar Sunday record means he’s behind him in the points classification this year when he’d have been ahead of him in 2023, even though Taka himself has an extra five points in his account.

And when it comes to points not translating to prizes, it’s impossible not to circle back to Ogier again. He would have been third in the title race right now under the old system – which would hardly be undeserved given he has a win and a second place to his name. But instead he’s fifth, behind someone who’s not got a single podium finish to his name in four rallies.

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Statistically speaking Ott Tänak has been the single biggest beneficiary of the points system thus far – but he's not exactly a fan either

Any conclusions?

This new points system has done what it set out to do – punish Sunday cruising. But it’s also having unintended consequences. As much as it’s motivated some drivers not to back off on Sunday, the more pronounced effect it’s had is allowing drivers who’ve run into trouble earlier in the rally to execute damage control, while also making victory less rewarding.

Short-term changes to the points structure are highly unlikely, so we’d better get used to this new reality for now.

The question is not whether the points system is good or bad. It’s about what type of driving we want to reward. It was felt by stakeholders that slow driving on a Sunday was a problem and that’s been resolved – but at what cost?

Looking at the standings, it hasn’t changed the complexion of the championship beyond all recognition. But it has undoubtedly changed what matters more over the course of a rally weekend in ways that extend beyond simply pushing a bit more on the final day.