Holmes Column: 2020 all change in the WRC
- 13th December 2019, 10:23am
No asphalt event was due to be held between the opening round at Monte Carlo and the 12th round in Germany. The Japanese round itself completely new, held in Honshu instead of Hokkaido, and significantly on asphalt, not gravel roads.Japan is also to be the final round of the series. From March until August every WRC event will be run on gravel. The news that Citroen Racing had withdrawn from the WRC was a major disappointment for the WRC Promoters as it left only three active official teams, Hyundai, Toyota and M-Sport. There was, however, a bigger disappointment for fans in that this brought with it a most surprising number of top line drivers without a regular drive. Eight drivers were specifically homeless (Breen, Greensmith, Lappi, Latvala, Meeke, Mikkelsen, Ostberg and Paddon), only two of whom had not been a WRC winner, all of whom had entered at least 40 WRC events.
Even as this column is being written, hopes are being raised and dashed all the time.Progressing into the future the FIA is engaged, meanwhile, on a complicated process of rearranging the nomenclature of titles for the classes of cars. To fulfil the aim within the sport of naming formulae in which the lowest number represents the most important formula (for examples, Formula One for Grand Prix cars), many formulae are confusingly been retitled to ensure the number 1 visibly represents the top number in every discipline! All this ties in within rallying with the FIA’s declared Pyramid concept of rally car formulae, and immediately this numerically flies in the face of the policy of how the existing Group R categories are numbered under the old style. The premier World Rally Car formula used to be backed up by the new Group R4 category for the old Group N designs, followed by the two-wheel drive but dormant R3, the popular R2, and the R1 aimed at low-cost single make tarmac championships. Completely the wrong way round, numerically! Things took the right direction with WRC2 being named the second level WRC championship, followed by the WRC3 series. Now came the big turnaround. R5 cars were put in the new Rally 2 category, R2 cars became the new Rally 4, the missing Rally number 3 became the lowest level four-wheel drive category in front of the number Rally 5, for clubmen’s two-wheel drive cars.
Gradually the metamorphosis was defined with the publication of the official FIA Pyramid chart.The most fundamental changes are due to take effect in 2022, which is when two major changes happen. Firstly, the long awaited decision that hybrid power units will be allowed in World Rally Cars, secondly that the traditional policy that rallying is essentially relatively lightly modified versions, competition between mass production cars is shelved. At the top end of the sport, look-alike production cars will now be admitted, based on specially built cars which can be of different basic sizes, but scaled in dimensions so that they comply with the basic dimensions of the car they are designed to represent. Apart from artificially designed impressions of similarity to production cars, which in original form are ready to purchase any direct relations will be false. This change comes alongside the other change, the introduction of hybrid engines, in line with the top level of Formula 1 and the World Endurance Championship. The introduction of hybrid power in rallying was a long time coming, finally arriving years after mass production hybrid cars started to be seen on the streets. Jean Todt became FIA President in October 2009 and on his first public appearance in the WRC in Portugal in 2010 he vowed that “new technology” would be part of the WRC scene ”in five years”.
This was easier promised than achieved, especially in the meantime as the automotive design parameters were changing fast, as were ecological demands and social expectations.The FIA were politically bound to contain the costs for competitors of revolution, and this led to the supply of key components being a key ingredient of the rules. Eventually rough guidelines were announced at the December 2019 World Motor Sport Conference, to take effect in 2022. All the WRC cars will feature identical 100kw electric motors working with an internal combustion power units each with common hardware and software strategies. Not only will rally cars have an electric power boost capability, but will be required to run only on electric power in city areas. Slowly a host of detailed regulation changes are expected to be announced, but we still wait to discover what they will encompass. Already decided is that manufacturers will now be able to enter B-teams like in earlier years, to boost the number of teams which can be entered; no longer will mixed surfaced rallies (like the recent Catalunya Rallies) be part of the WRC; the penalty for missing stages will now always be 10 minutes per stage; and WRC2 Pro becomes WRC2, while WRC2 Amateur becomes WRC3. WRC3 becomes merged within the Junior championship
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