WRC working group must deliver the end of Rally1

Robert Reid and David Richards met to discuss the future of rallying last week. DirtFish was on hand to help out…

Ott Tänak

Seismic moments are remembered by geography. The Geneva Convention. The Yalta Conference. The Concorde Agreement. These gatherings shaped history. Nobody forgets where it happened.

Admittedly, what happened in Baku last week has nothing of the historical context of Geneva or Yalta – but that pact made in a Parisian plaza in January 1981 was arguably the turning point for Formula 1.

Could last week on the shores of the Caspian Sea be the same for the World Rally Championship? It could be known as the Baku lunch.


And DirtFish might even have been involved. Happening upon Robert Reid and David Richards on their way to the lunch I did offer my services both for consultation and for eating lunch. Sadly, my offer was politely, but firmly, declined.

So, from the wrong side of the door, I sought a table in the JW Marriott Absheron Hotel reception and set about penning my own thoughts on what’s needed from the FIA’s latest working group.

With next season a matter of weeks away, some of the biggest issues have to be put off until 2025, but not all of them.

Format – 2024

Make changes! If the World Rally Championship through COVID taught us anything, it’s that rally folk remain among the most resourceful and imaginative in global sport.

Estonia’s ability to go from a standing start to a WRC round with one of the most forward-looking approaches to an Appendix S (which appeared to be re-written on a weekly basis) was a demonstration of what can be done in next to no time.


Let’s have more of that kind of ingenuity and creativity.

Even if it’s the reduction from a three/four to a two-three-day format, let’s do it. Move shakedown to Friday morning, super Saturday and done for Sunday lunch. Look, I’m oversimplifying massively here, but the point is… very little has changed in the past 20 years.

Carpe momentum.

Question everything and make everything stand up for the right reason. And yes, commercial considerations have to come into play. We need a financially viable WRC which offers the right return for all stakeholders, but do we still need to slavishly stick to the powerstage at precisely that time on the final day?

I’m not saying we have to change it – I’m just saying let’s ask the question.

The cars – 2025


Rally1 cars are done. We’ve been dancing around this one for long enough. They’re too expensive. Yes, yes, I know I’ve banged on about it being about the value of the championship rather than the cost of the car, but the bottom line is that building value into the WRC is a medium-term mission. Right now, we need to sort the short-term.

And that means a fresh homologation cycle based off Rally2 cars.

Probably need a new name and the odd tickle here and there, but nothing serious. More power would be nice, but putting it bluntly, these cars aren’t as safe as Rally1 and, therefore, cannot be allowed to go as quickly between the trees. It’s that simple.

We can make them louder and look a little bit more groovy, but don’t make the aero inefficient. Make it aero with holes in. Like I said, were in the short-term now. We’re about making good with what we can afford.


Anybody crying over the loss of Rally1, save your tears. It’s economically unsustainable. Not convinced? Take a look around the service park. How many do you count?

Exactly. Not enough.

Granted, in tech terms technology it’s a step backwards. But that one step will lead to two or more steps forward in terms of competition, engagement and promotion. It has to.

I remember the meetings going back to late 2020 with discussion after discussion about how we had to integrate hybrid into the next generation. The WRC tied itself up in knots trying to do the right thing in terms of sustainability.

Don’t fret on the sustainability thing, we’re covered… because we’re fuelled by biomass feedstock, wind turbines, water electrolysis and even some carbon capture. The WRC is positively healthy for the environment.

Hybrid was just the cherry on the entirely sustainable cake. And a cherry a good few folk were convinced we didn’t need.

The cost cap – 2025

If we go with the above, personally, I’m not convinced of the need for a limit on spending. The FIA did a tremendous job on regulating the second-tier R5 and Rally2 categories, so an arms race is unlikely.

Equally, as the stakes would be so much higher for a potentially re-badged premier category, I might well defer to the FIA’s technical department here…

The tires – 2025


Hello Hankook. The new tire deal’s arrival coincides perfectly with the new technical regulations. I’ve used this space to question the need for tire development in the WRC before.

The requirements from a control tire are, to me, simple: to avoid punctures.

Seriously, what does it matter if we sacrifice some performance to build in more strength? And, if I’m brutally honest, give the cars less grip – that’s only going to make them more spectacular.

Obviously, when it comes to the Monte Carlo Rally options and those available for Tarmac, it’s safety first and we need the right compound, construction and tread patterns to keep the show on the road.



The need for change is here. It’s now. Sitting in the FIA Gala on Friday night, it was amazing the number of Formula 1 folk I talked to who were still struggling to take in Kalle Rovanperä’s 2024 part-program.

How could it be allowed to happen? More pertinently, why would he want to step back?

As he’d already explained earlier on Friday evening, Rovanperä has his own reasons. That doesn’t mean feet shouldn’t be held to the fire. They should.

What we don’t need is tinkering. What we need is for Reid and Richards to demonstrate a genuine understanding of where we’re at and take action.


There’s a school of thought that FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem hasn’t delivered on the promise he made to DirtFish almost two years ago, the one about him fixing rallying.

As I said, that moment’s here and now. But it’s a moment for full force, not half-measures.

What will the manufacturers think? Depends which side of the office you ask. The technical side will likely rail against this sort of change. Pushing the envelope might have to wait until tomorrow.

From a marketing perspective, having double or maybe even triple the number of drivers able to source the budget to fight for a world championship, sorry for the world championship, has to be a more simple sell. And running those cars with potential format changes could offer that for half the budget.

Come on, be bold. Be brave.

Be remembered for the Baku lunch.

Words:David Evans