WRC future regulations set to be defined after months of debate

8 Min Read

The WRC has been working towards Tuesday’s World Motor Sport Council meeting, where several questions are expected to be answered.

At the top of the agenda are the technical regulations for next year and 2026 which has sparked plenty of heated debate since the FIA unveiled its proposals for the future of the WRC in February.

It is widely anticipated that the current Rally1 regulations will remain in place until the end of 2026.

This would represent a U-turn from the FIA proposal tabled in February by the motorsport’s governing body’s working group, set up in December, to “evaluate and recommend the future direction of rallying”.

February’s proposal was built around a move to remove hybrid power from Rally1 cars from next year as part of a plan to close the performance gap to Rally2 cars through a reduction in aero, a modified rear wing, and a smaller air restrictor.

This coincided with a proposal for manufacturers to produce an optional upgrade kit for Rally2 cars to increase their performance to allow some competitors to battle at the sharp end of rallies.

The idea was strongly opposed by the current Rally1 teams and WRC2 manufacturers which resulted in a letter being penned to the FIA in April requesting for the current rules to remain in place.

The key gripes among the teams centred around the short timeframe to re-design, test and validate changes to cars for next season, and the fact that investments had already been made into the current cars, expected to compete across a five-year homologation cycle [2022-2026].

The FIA’s thinking was to increase entries and provide a smooth transition to 2027 when it plans to introduce new regulations built around the current Rally1 concept.

These 330-horsepower vehicles will use a common safety cell to reduce costs and allow manufacturers and tuners to develop cars with their own bodywork based on production models.

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Vincent Thuillier / Hyundai Motorsport

Since February, there have been various meetings with stakeholders and the WRC Commission to find a solution moving forward, with an outcome expected on Tuesday. A dossier has been put together which will be tabled at the WMSC where a decision will be made.

While the FIA has remained tight-lipped as to what will be announced, speaking at Rally Sardinia the governing body’s road sport director Andrew Wheatley says a “smooth transition” towards 2027 can be expected.

“I think there has been an incredible amount of work done in the last three months and I think we are probably 50% of the way through the job,” Wheatley told Motorsport.com when asked about the upcoming World Motor Sport Council meeting.

“We have moved so far from the discussion that we had but that is partly because that has been fairly extensive discussions going on for quite a long time.

“I think what you will find is that we will be able to have a smooth transition towards 2027 and the concepts that have been generating and the positive energy, and hard work being put in is a testament that everybody believes that the World Rally Championship has a strong future.”

It remains to be seen what exactly this “smooth transition” equates to on paper, but WRC teams have already provided indications that Rally1, as we know it, will continue next year.

In Croatia, Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala suggested that he didn’t expect too many changes while in Sardinia, earlier this month, he said: “There has been a bit of talk in the media that the current cars will stay for the next two years which I assume.

“I believe this is the right way to go as the investment has been done and there is no point to do a big investment for a short period of time.

“Our focus should be on the 2027 regulations and all the teams agree on that, so that is what I hope. For me, the car with or without hybrid doesn’t make a big difference overall. No additional investment in these current cars, I think that would be best to save budget for everybody.”

Hyundai has made its stance clear with boss Cyril Abiteboul revealing that the uncertainty has forced the team to abandon its significant planned 2025 update to its current i20 N.

The former Renault Formula 1 boss believes the changes proposed to the Rally1 cars would create a product “not up to the standard” of the WRC.

This has resulted in the Frenchman telling his team to gamble on the current rules continuing with his design team working on improvements to the team’s current i20 N for next year.

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Elfyn Evans, Scott Martin, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

“It is high time that we have some clarity for the future first and foremost for the team and our design office because it is very tricky to define what cars and what regulation to work towards,” Abiteboul told Motorsport.com.

“We have anticipated that and made some assumption on what the conclusion of the World Motor Sport Council will be, and hopefully our assumption will be confirmed. This is important so we can report back to headquarters as to what 20205 and 2026 is looking like.”

M-Sport-Ford is banking on stability in regulations for next year too, with the focus being firmly placed on ensuring the championship is in the best position possible to attract new marques for 2027.

“We don’t have any solid results [yet] but I think from everything I hear stability is the key and the focus is on 2027 which is what we want,” Millener told Motorsport.com in Sardinia.

“All the manufacturers are very aligned and very positive about trying to find a way for 2027. We are looking at different power trains and options, so there is no excuse for any manufacturer to enter, whether they do or not is a different story.

“We need this final sign-off and then we can go forward. I think we have had a difficult few months of instability, that wasn’t really required.”

Source link

Find Us on Socials

Share this Article
Leave a comment