What DirtFish says about the WRC’s new direction

After Wednesday's World Rally Championship announcements, we asked our writers how they feel about the proposed new regulations


Wednesday was a potentially groundbreaking day in the World Rally Championship. After months of speculation, we have some direction.

Major changes to the technical regulations at the sport’s top level were proposed by the FIA’s WRC Working Group at Wednesday’s World Motor Sport Council. Among them is the demise of hybrid along with a raft of adjustments to current formulas and new concepts designed to make the WRC more entertaining, affordable, competitive and appealing.

But did yesterday’s announcement really offer a clear roadmap for the WRC’s future? Or did it only raise the potential for further confusion?

We asked DirtFish.com writers Alasdair Lindsay, James Bowen and David Evans for their thoughts.

One temporary solution replaced by another

I do not envy the decision makers in rallying. They are having to craft the long-term future of the WRC during the most transient era of motorsport ever.

Road relevancy as a fundamental principle of motorsport is waning. Formula 1 has to some extent bet against it entirely: against a backdrop of countries around the world putting in hard targets for banning fossil-fuelled cars, it is sticking steadfastly to combustion, albeit with a hybrid element still present.

Rallying has not done this. Its bets are hedged. Combustion is back in its full, unadulterated form, from next year – but a desire to have an electric class in the future has been explicitly mentioned. Hydrogen also has the governing body’s attention – albeit as a motorsport-wide exploration into the technology, rather than specific to the WRC.


Rally1 cars will operate on synthetic, fossil-free fuel only from next season

Rally1-, Rally2+, electric, all at once…rallying has decided to not decide anything. It’s decided to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.

It’s confusing and it’s probably going to get messy. Is there another, more reasonable option?

Probably not.

With vehicles that by design are intended to look like road cars on steroids, being raced on real roads, there is a clear need for rallying to remain more closely tied to what consumers can buy than its formula-based brethren. But the automotive industry has no consensus on what that is either. EV? Hydrogen? Synthetic fuels? We are in the midst of a technology war and we are yet to find out whether electric is the VHS or Betamax of powertrains.


Ford pushed hard for the introduction of hybrid technology to the WRC

Toyota likes hydrogen. Ford has backed EVs to the hilt – as has Hyundai, based on its recent announcement ditching the i20 N and i30N combustion road cars in favor of an EV future. Stellantis, still ever-present at the lower rungs of rallying, is also onboard the EV train. But manufacturers such as Audi and Porsche see a synthetic fuel future. Alejandro Agag, meanwhile, has given up on electric in his off-road series, as Extreme E prepared to become Extreme H.

There is a clear need to attract more manufacturers. But if the manufacturers can’t agree on what the future of cars is, how is the FIA meant to develop a ruleset that will attract new marques without losing existing ones?

Among the clouds of uncertainty are some rays of light. Hybrid, in the form it was implemented, was pointless – an expensive spec part that didn’t belong to the manufacturers and offered no differentiation between vehicles. It was a gigantic waste of money that added no value for participants. It was a heavy box of volts that weighed down each car and the championship as a whole. Its demise will be mourned by no one.

As for the proposed return of remote servicing and smaller service park structures, a more agile championship is a positive. Dakar has the right idea: a bivouac that can be taken apart, migrated and reassembled elsewhere on the same day. Rallying at its heart is a long-distance sport not burdened by the requirement to use the same five miles of asphalt for three days straight – an ability to showcase the sport to as many people in as many locations as possible should be a key strength.

You can’t say the FIA and its decision makers haven’t tried to fix the problems the WRC faces. But there are problems beyond motorsport that mean some of the solutions proposed can only be temporary in nature – just like the adoption of Rally1 hybrids was for 2022. A stepping stone until the automotive world can finally figure out what it wants to do once dinosaur fuel goes extinct.

Alasdair Lindsay


Hyundai's impressive service area is set to be ditched in favor of more cost-effective solutions

Lots of great ideas, but how realistic are they?

I wouldn’t go as far as calling yesterday’s announcements a ‘roadmap’, it seems more of a wishlist at this stage, but I certainly feel positive about the objectives that have been set out.

Firstly, we should applaud the FIA’s WRC Working Group, which has clearly fulfilled its purpose of shaking up the WRC on all fronts, and has done so in less than three months. Change is most certainly coming now, and that’s exciting.

The technical changes proposed do offer some room for confusion, as there’s basically potential for three different sets of regulations to be present in the WRC’s top class by 2026, but it all seems pretty logical to me once you’ve had some time to digest them.


The proposed technical changes should close the gap between Rally2 and Rally1 cars

Already got a Rally1 car? Great, whip out the hybrid unit for next year, turn down the engine for 2026 and crack on.

Want to get your hands on a Rally1 car? Well now you can buy one for €400,000, or you can build your own without even needing to have a corresponding road-going variant thanks to the opening up of the Rally1 technical regulations to allow for concept cars.

Only have a Rally2 car? Slap on a WRC kit and go compete with the big boys for overall WRC victories – at least, that’s what I interpret the purpose of the Rally2+ cars to be, rather than competing in their own specific class.

Then there’s the potential for better promotion from having more expert voices at the table, a mixing up of event formats to create more intrigue over the season and a move away from expensive and dull service parks.

It all adds up to more variety for the fans, more flexibility for competitors of all kinds who want to take part in the WRC, lower costs and greater marketing value.

Brilliant. I just have two questions.

How realistic is all of this? And who is going to be in charge of making it all happen?

Those are the only points of confusion I’m concerned about, and I suspect we won’t have the answers for some time.

James Bowen


The FIA's WRC Working Group presented its reccomendations to WMSC on Wednesday

The time is right for change

When David Richards and Robert Reid politely declined the offer of me joining them for their Working Group lunch in Baku last year, I offered one piece of advice: don’t create a vacuum.

Before yesterday, that vacuum was building. There had been bits and pieces of intelligence through Monte and Sweden, but what was needed was directive and direction.

Did yesterday provide that? Personally, I think it did. The directive was to the WRC Commission and the FIA’s technical departments.


With 500bhp on-tap, Rally1 cars are certainly spectacular to watch

The direction is where the roadmap possibly swerves into something of a complicated herringbone (it’s a road rallying thing that I pretend to understand – but don’t really!).

Right now, nothing is cast in stone and won’t be until June.

But if the Working Group gets its way we’ll have slower Rally1 cars and faster Rally2 cars. That’s good for building the bridge between the two categories. I think.

I’ve got to be honest and say I’m completely caught between two stools here. One minute I’m thinking it could be really cool to see a well-driven Rally2+ car up in the face of a Rally1- and that could happen with that performance and aero differentiation narrowed, then the next I’m pining for hybrid.

I know the current cars are probably too fast – it’s because they’re a little bit unhinged. Watching Kalle Rovanperä’s Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 sent off the line on dry Tarmac somewhere in the middle of Austria last year was something I’ll never forget. The thing was just pumped full of charge and it just ripped. I swear it generated so much traction planet earth briefly stopped turning.

Isn’t that what the pinnacle of rallying should be about?

Apologies, I’m not really answering the question. Look, we’ve taken a step and that’s absolutely positive. Let’s see what June brings.

Beyond the technical, bring on the promo and let’s have some proper thought given to itineraries. The sport’s been the same for too long. The time is right for change.

David Evans