With the World Rally Championship’s headline machines undergoing such a radical overhaul over the off season as Rally1 replaces the World Rally Car, you’d be forgiven for not being up to speed with what’s changed further down the WRC field.
So in case that’s you, or you’d simply benefit from a refresher, here’s everything you need to know about WRC2 in 2022.
Keep an eye out on Tuesday for a piece explaining all things WRC3 from our senior staff writer David Evans:
An all inclusive Rally2 class
For years, a common cry of rallying fans has been the segregation between WRC2 and WRC3. It was particularly prevalent in 2020 when the top drivers in WRC3 were often outperforming the WRC2 leaders, but that balance was somewhat readdressed in 2021 due to the influx of ex-works drivers in WRC2.
Those cries have finally been answered with the advent of WRC2 Open – the new-for-2022 series for all WRC-registered crews in Rally2 machinery. Hallelujah.
However, it won’t necessarily be a straight slog for victory in a sense of various crews will have different objectives within WRC2. Which brings us onto our next point.
WRC2 Masters & Junior
Within WRC2, the WRC2 Masters and WRC2 Junior titles will also be up for grabs. At first glance this new system does appear quite complex but, once it’s synthesised, it actually makes a great deal of sense.
WRC2 Junior will be the hotter contested of these two standalone titles. For drivers 30 years old or younger at the start of 2022, have never won WRC2 or WRC3 or been nominated to score points for a manufacturer in the WRC, this category caters for the majority of crews in the class who are looking to progress their careers.
WRC2 Masters meanwhile is for all competitors 50 years old or younger at the start of 2022 that have also paid an additional €3000 [$3434].
Every single driver that’s registered for either WRC2 Junior or WRC2 Masters will be able to win the overall WRC2 title too, and just as it has been in previous years to eligible drivers must compete on seven rallies including one outside Europe.
The powerstage will remain too after it was introduced to the support class for the first time last season.
There are some familiar faces and new names vying for WRC2 honors this season. But either way there’ll be plenty of contenders, as on the Monte alone there are some 20 cars on the start list.
Andreas Mikkelsen leads the way with new co-driver Torstein Eriksen; the WRC2 drivers’ and co-drivers’ champion of 2021 teaming up together for 2022 in a Toksport Škoda. This duo is only eligible for WRC2 Open.
Marco Bulacia remains Mikkelsen’s team-mate at the team in 2022 and will be vying for WRC2 Junior glory, while Nikolay Gryazin also joins the Toksport fold and will have his eyes fixed on both the overall and Junior titles.
Chris Ingram is another WRC2 Junior challenger in yet another Toksport Fabia Rally2 evo, while European Rally Championship graduate Erik Cais and Hyundai driver Grégoire Munster also join the chase.
Competing purely for WRC2 Open honors is last year’s WRC3 champion Yohan Rossel, who remains in a Citroën C3 Rally2 but has switched from Saintéloc Racing to PH Sport. His spot at Saintéloc has been filled by former M-Sport driver Eric Camilli.
DirtFish-backed driver Sean Johnston is also back for a third season at this level in a second Saintéloc Citroën.
There’s no news on who else may join the fray beyond Monte Carlo but given Hyundai and M-Sport has no official representation at round one, don’t be surprised to see the likes of Teemu Suninen, Jari Huttunen and also Mads Østberg appear later in the season.
In WRC2 Masters, Freddy Loix headlines the Monte entry while other contenders include Oliver Burri, Frédéric Rosati and Jean-Michel Raoux.
A closed loophole
Emil Lindholm’s Rally Spain victory in WRC3 last year is now the stuff of legend, even though he wasn’t credited with the 25 championship points for it. And that’s exactly why it will long stick in the memory.
Frustrated at having to run behind all the priority crews after already entering his maximum number of events for 2021, co-driver Reeta Hämäläinen was entered as the driver for the event instead even though it was still Lindholm that was sitting behind the steering wheel.
It’s a trick that former Citroën driver Stéphane Lefebvre also repeated when entering the Monza Rally a month later.
But for 2022, this will no longer be permitted as a new regulation, Article 3.3.3, has been added to the WRC’s sporting regulations.
It states: “In order to score points in any of the championships for drivers, the person nominated as the driver on the entry form must drive the car on the rally special stages, except in a case of force majeure occurring during the competition, notified to the stewards and recognised by them.”
And that’s all Lindholm ever wanted to achieve with his cunning stunt.