17 Apr 08
The FIA's new technical regulations for the World Rally Car of the future are almost complete.
The new breed of WRC car will be based on the current Super 2000 and Group N models. Starting from this base, a homologated performance kit will be purchased and fitted to upgrade the car to WRC specification. The next generation of World Rally Car will be permitted to compete in the WRC from 2009 and will be able to score points in the series from 2010. From 2011, all World Rally Cars will be built this way.
WRC cars built to the current specification are not destined for the scrap heap just yet. They can contest the 2008 and 2009 seasons as they are. But in 2010 they will be modified so they can compete on level performance terms with the next generation. In 2011 the older de-tuned cars will still be allowed to compete on WRC events, but only in the hands of privateers.
In the second part of an exclusive interview for wrc.com Morrie Chandler, President of the FIA's World Rally Championship Commission, explains how the rules will change the cars at the top of the sport.
Why have you brought in the new regulations?
It's all about growing the sport and a desire to see more manufacturer participation. We brought the regulations in because in 2006 top end WRC cars were costing close to a million Euros each to build and a considerable amount more to maintain. Of course this figure drops once the initial research and development costs have been paid. But anybody wanting to join the WRC and start from scratch would need well over one million Euros - that's over the top and a huge barrier for new teams and manufacturers.
The cost of competing at WRC level was beyond the means of privateer teams too. There's nothing to prevent anybody sitting down with a particular brand of car and deciding to contest the WRC. What we're saying is we've got to make it affordable. The object of the exercise is to widen as much as we can the opportunities for people to contest the WRC at the top end.
How will the next generation of WRC cars differ from the current Super 2000 or Group N cars?
The current Super 2000 or Group N car will effectively be fitted with a kit to unlock its performance. The specification for the kit is still being worked on but as a guideline we've said to the technical people it's got to be something that can be put on or taken off in two hours. We don't want a kit which requires a complete engine rebuild to fit; we believe a time limit is the best way to ensure that the kit will remain simple. What they'll come back with I'm not totally sure; some suspension components, probably some gearbox modifications, certainly a new spoiler at the rear - and of course a turbocharger for the Super 2000 car. We want the cars to look different too - so they are a step apart from Group N or Super 2000. If we get it right, then it will be possible for a car to be sold on at the end of the WRC season and used in another class of rallying. If the new owner decides to take it into the Regional Championship he just takes off the WRC kit and he's got a car to do it with.
Will the new cars be as quick as the current ones?
We would hope so, yes. A lot of people would say no because if you look at the Group N car they're not that spectacular, but I think also if you put a modified Group N or Super 2000 car in the hands of the top WRC drivers they've got that added skill, that extra ability and it's not going to be long before they're up at the same sort of level as the current WRC cars.
Will they be as spectacular to watch?
We're working to ensure the new cars are exciting to watch. Whether we like it or not, the right amount of exhaust noise is popular with spectators and even though a car going sideways isn't the fastest way through a stage it certainly looks good. So we'll be addressing these and other areas. We're not copying Formula 1 but you've only got to look at what's happened there this season; traction control is removed and all of a sudden the drivers have got to actually drive the cars. I hope we'll see the same thing with the new WRC car. The new technical regulations will mean a lot of the electronic components and driver aids will disappear.