Sunday, July 14, 2024

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How the FIA ​​U-turn gave the WRC a much-needed 'rocket'.

During this era, the WRC got here full circle. There was an idea to completely abandon Rally1 cars with hybrid drive and install Rally2 as the highest class. There was an idea to create a Rally2 plus category by lowering the category of Rally1 cars and modernizing the present Rally2 cars. However, overall, the soundness of the technical regulations for Rally 1 and Rally 2 for the following two years is essentially the most reasonable and logical solution.

It is vital to notice that, normally, WRC stakeholders want changes to enhance the championship; from manufacturer involvement to raised promotion.

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That's why the FIA ​​initially took motion, first establishing a working group to evaluate the longer term direction of rallying, which resulted in a lot of proposals, including a move submitted in February to alter the technical regulations for 2025.

As FIA director of road sport Andrew Wheatley explained in April, there are a lot of the reason why the FIA ​​has taken motion to assist the WRC achieve its potential.

“There were three key elements. The first was Pirelli's lack of commitment [to a new tyre deal]Wheatley said.

“Secondly, drivers don't want to do it [full] championship [Kalle Rovanpera going part-time] and three, and we always have this discussion about Ford whether they come in or not, but there was an extra layer and it was about Hyundai continuing [in the WRC]. This is a fundamental change in the ongoing discussion.”

Bands and producers are literally customers and if a customer doesn't like what’s presented, they simply won't buy it. This is the situation within the WRC in a nutshell. The FIA ​​recommend a radical vision that was resoundingly rejected when the WRC teams united and in April wrote a letter to the FIA ​​asking for the technical regulations to be left unchanged.

In hindsight, if the reforms were pushed through, the change could have risked losing one in every of the three current Rally1 brands, given their concerns about investing more resources into changing current cars in a race against time for a two-year period before latest rules in 2027. manufacturer would put the championship in a way more difficult situation.

This shall be seen as a victory for the teams and the WRC organizer, which was also not in favor of the changes. Rolling out the changes for 2025 and 2026 was all the time unlikely to draw a brand new brand and will shake carmakers' confidence if the five-year approval cycle were reduced to a few years.

Testing of Toyota's 2025 prototype also showed that a top-end product wouldn’t be as exciting as the present hybrid formula, which has thus far produced five different winners in six rounds. After such rejection from manufacturers, leaving the technical regulations unchanged was really the one logical option.

Adrien Fourmaux, Alexandre Coria, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Adrien Fourmaux, Alexandre Coria, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

Photo: M-Sport

It also suggests that following the pattern of the World Endurance Championship, which has fastidiously and methodically moved from the demise of LMP1 to the hugely successful Hypercar formula, might be best practice, relatively than trying to instantly patch the formula to resolve its problems.

It is argued that this debate has wasted loads of time and energy that might have been focused on ensuring that the 2027 regulations are the most effective possible and most tasty to potential producers.

But in point of fact, all this upheaval has its upside. Over the past six months, every aspect of the WRC has been fastidiously scrutinized, sparking much discussion and much-needed changes to enhance the promotional aspect of the series that will not have happened had the FIA ​​not taken motion.

The underrated WRC promoter presented his vision of the longer term in Portugal, which was a response to the concerns of drivers and teams. The promoter has now invested in organizing the WRC's long-awaited trip to the US in 2026, which could possibly be a game-changer for the championship.

This coincides with efforts to enhance the fan experience at events and, for those watching at home, ongoing testing of a brand new F1-style team radio package, while helmet cameras are also being tested. Some members of the service park have suggested that more progress has been made in improving the attractiveness of the championship – and subsequently the return on investment for manufacturers – than ever before, a by-product of the work of the FIA ​​working group.

“With everything that has been done recently, one thing I can say is that even though a lot of it wasn't what the teams wanted and wasted a lot of resources, we can't argue that it didn't send a rocket back to the championship.” M-Sport team director Richard Millener told Motorsport.com.

“We now have a lot of movement, some strategies, some goals and a lot of conversations. We know what's coming. The organizer told us his story and the FIA ​​told us his story. We need to keep this momentum going and I'm not sure we would have it if it weren't for some of what was discussed and proposed [by the FIA] and because of that, everyone worked together to achieve this goal, which is positive.”

Interestingly, Hyundai's Thierry Neuville, who has been essentially the most vocal concerning the stability of the technical regulations and improving WRC promotions, was quoted within the FIA ​​announcement this week together with team representatives.

Neuville has probably been essentially the most critical of the FIA's technical proposals and the WRC organizer's handling of the championship, but the selections made during this six-month period of uncertainty appear to have began to win the Belgian round.

“We received the action plan a few weeks ago [from the WRC Promoter] already and it looks interesting and promising, we must admit,” Neuville told Motorsport.com.

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

“I believe some work shall be done, which is positive, but I believe the teams and drivers still need our input.

“Therefore, we’re very completely satisfied that there shall be communication between us and the promoter via [former co-driver to Sebastien Ogier] Julien Ingrassia, who will play a vital role, as will Scott Martin [Elfyn Evans’ co-driver] who’s the voice of the drivers within the WRC Commission.

“I think it's good, and by being able to communicate through Julien we will make a big contribution to promoting the events.”

But as they are saying, talking is one thing and acting is one other. As Millener explains, an important thing now’s to have conversations.

“We have received loads of messages during the last 4 or five weeks. But now an important thing is to deliver on it. It's very easy to speak about it, but conversation is the primary element. We have to get the knowledge out now, and that's still impossible for everybody involved. We can't just make one big push after which back off.

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