Why Rally2-plus won’t last in the WRC

The upgrades to rallying's second tier cars are only a temporary measure until the new Rally1 rules take over

Gus Greensmith

There was a lot to unpack in the minutes from the midweek World Motor Sport Council meeting. Hybrid out from 2025. A new Rally1 car for 2026. New promotional efforts. Remote servicing and flexible event formats.

But the one which had been talked about for months was also included: Rally2-plus. Bolt some bits to the existing Rally2 cars to make them faster. It had been debated as an option to replace Rally1 – instead, it will sit alongside it.

But not for long. Taking a current Rally2 car and bolting bits onto it: namely a bigger exhaust, larger restrictor, better aero parts and an optional paddle-shift gearbox, is not a long-term solution.

David Richards, head of the FIA’s WRC Working Group, admits it’s a compromise to get support-category drivers seat time in faster cars before new generation Rally1 machines arrive.

“In Rally2, we’ve got some very good regulations, very well supported now,” Richards declared to a small group of media, including DirtFish. “We didn’t want to change those at all. We said, let’s leave those alone completely.

“On the other hand, some private competitors would like to compete at a closer level to the Rally1 cars on world championship events. So we’re going to develop a kit for those cars that could be put on the car, or taken off the car after the event because those will continue for several years as championship cars for the European championship and national championships all over the world.

“These kits will be affordable and allow an increase in performance so that they can get close to the performance of the Rally1 cars to show how good they are on their national round of the world championship at an inexpensive cost as well.”

There is a clear short-term benefit for 2025, where crews can draw closer to the current-spec Rally1 cars. But what about in the long term, once the second-generation Rally1 cars arrive?

Jan Solans

The proposed WRC kit would allow Rally2 cars to get closer to Rally1 speeds

When asked by DirtFish where Rally2-plus slotted into the Rally1 equation, Richards responded: “Basically, it is a compromise, if I’m honest with you.

“It’s an opportunity where in the next couple of transition years, somebody with a Rally2 car can compete on a close to equivalent level to the Rally1 cars.

“We don’t believe anyone is going to be purchasing the Rally1 cars for the moment until the new formula is in place, but it’ll allow younger drivers, for anyone who wants to, to upgrade their car to compete on a similar performance. It won’t be the same; Rally1 cars will still be the top level.”

An ambitious target price of €5000 has been set for the proposed Rally2-plus kits. But unlike elements of the proposed 2026 Rally1 engine, which is set to be policed by a cost cap, there will be no price controls in place and no prescription for any manufacturer to offer the kits either.

Yohan Rossel

Richards is confident the Rally2 upgrades will prove cost-effective

“There’ll be no enforcement of cost around [the kits],” said Richards. “It’ll be up to each manufacturer to offer the kit.

“We haven’t concluded how that kit might be homologated yet. That’s for Xavier [Mestelan-Pinon, FIA technical director] and the technical team at the FIA to determine. But imagine there are only a couple of elements to this. Already, I believe [M-Sport managing director] Malcolm Wilson offers a kit for below that price for one of his current Rally2 cars. So that’s a benchmark for you.

“It’s a 33mm restrictor; that doesn’t cost you very much, you can buy one of those for a couple of hundred pounds. There’s a paddle shift gearbox, which is optional, not compulsory. Many of the manufacturers will do those for a couple of thousand pounds. And a rear wing on the car and a different exhaust – I don’t think we’ve underestimated the cost of that.”

While Richards suggested M-Sport was already in a position to build Rally2-plus cars for customers, the most successful manufacturer at WRC2 level indicated to the WRC Working Group chief that it was not ready to start work on upgrade kits.

Pepe Lopez

Škoda are yet to give a Rally2-plus program the green light

“We’ve spoken to the other manufacturers,” Richards confirmed. “I spoke to Škoda; they say they need a little bit of time to study this. They were a little concerned about the gearbox and they wanted to speak to their gearbox supplier.

“If the demand is there, the kits will come. If there’s no demand, nobody will make the kits. And that’s the end of it.”

Even if there are customers in 2025 for the kits, the expectation that second-generation Rally1 cars will come fully on stream by 2027 means their lifespan may end up limited by design.

If the new cars achieve a target cost of €400,000, it would make Rally1 cars only around €150,000 more expensive than current Rally2 machinery. That’s aided by the second-generation Rally1 cars being set to share the same DNA as its little brother once the space frame chassis, aerodynamic package, engine and transmission are taken out of the equation: “Everything else on the [Rally1] car will be effectively the same regulations as Rally2 today,” said Richards.

Adrien Fourmaux

Rally2 technology will be a major part of the new 2026 Rally1 regulations

There is an expectation that Rally1 cars will become more popular in the WRC at the direct expense of Rally2 by design, with the top-level car aimed at being more affordable and accessible.

Richards got out his crystal ball: “If I was to project into the future, I think you’ll see fewer Rally2 cars being homologated because that category of car is quietly disappearing now.

“I think when we get to 2028, you might find that the new Rally1 car that we’re announcing now for 2026 will become the dominant factor.”