WRC working group chief: I don’t understand new points system

David Richards gave a blunt appraisal of how points are currently allocated in the series


Last week was all about the mid-term and long-term future of the World Rally Championship. David Richards was outlining the FIA WRC working group’s vision of what WRC 2026 and beyond would look like.

During an hour-long roundtable Richards, accompanied by FIA road sport director Andrew Wheatley, had talked through almost every single facet of what WRC 2026 would look like. But as that hour came to a close, the little devil on my shoulder started poking my head.

Go on, ask him. What does he really think?

Richards had spent the last hour fielding questions from journalists dissecting the masterplan he’d led the drafting of. He would, surely, have something to say on one of the WRC’s short-term concerns: points.


Richards didn't sugar-coat his thoughts on the WRC's current points system

It’s very much a here-and-now complaint and not within the remit of the WRC working group. But it was a hot topic post-Sweden. So I listened to the little devil and asked the question. Thoughts on the new points system, DR?

“I don’t understand it. So that says enough for me,” replied Richards, rather emphatically.

”You know, the reason football is so popular is because you kick a ball backwards and forwards and you score the points for every time you get a ball in the goal. And if we can think of a simple points system for the World Rally Championship, it’d be far better for us.”

Wheatley is a man for details. It’s his job now to take all the directives issued by the WMSC last week and craft them into fully fleshed-out proposals and rules. His follow-up to Richards’ declaration was, naturally, more detail-oriented.

What’s clear is the FIA is well aware of the mixed reception of the new points system: “It’s a constant source of discussion,” said Wheatley.

And Wheatley is also sympathetic to those who feel the new system is simply too convoluted to be easily understandable.

“I agree with David. It’s complex,” he said. “It definitely adds another element of complexity to the overall decision. But there is only one winner, and trust me, there were options on the table where there could have been more than one winner over the course of a rally, which would definitely not have worked. There’s only one winner at the end of the weekend, and there’ll only be one champion at the end of the year.”

Rightfully, conclusions are not being jumped to after only two events. Patience and diligence is necessary – binning the new system overnight is not on the agenda. Even tweaking it this early in the year is a no-no. But as Wheatley pointed out, we’ve seen it make little difference and a huge difference; both extremes have featured after only two rallies. A bit of whiplash is to be expected.


Esapekka Lappi won last month's Rally Sweden, but didn't emerge from the event as the highest points scorer; that honor went to second place Elfyn Evans

“I think we’ve had two dramatically different events,” said Wheatley.

“In Monte Carlo, there was hardly any effect. In Sweden, there was a huge effect. I think there were also two dramatically different events in terms of conditions and in terms of the level of competitiveness of the drivers at the front of the field.

“I think we need to give it a little bit more time. I think we need to understand where we are. Certainly in Sweden, I didn’t see anybody sandbagging on Sunday. I saw people driving their absolute door handles off on Sunday morning with a desperate attempt to try and recoup a few points from the championship.


Wheatley will be keeping an eye on how the points system plays out as the season progress 

“But I think we were very clear, and I think the World Motor Sport Council was exceptionally clear in Baku. Yes, they’re prepared to have this opportunity to try the new points system, but it has to be reviewed. It has to be continually reviewed to understand whether there is a better option.”

“We need to understand how we find people who use that system to get to their best advantage, and it could create some interesting discussions as we go forward, but we need to give it a bit more time.”

It’s likely a question of when, not if, the points system will get a further tweak. But like the WMSC decisions handed out last week, it’s probably going to be quite a while before talk turns into action.