Fans are already excited about the new hybrid generation of top-level cars to be driven by the likes of Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville.
And now, a new simplified structure for the WRC’s support championships has been given the green light, designed to make the sport easier to understand and follow.
So how are these support series going to work? Read on...
Q. There’s quite a lot of letters and numbers in this new structure, so what do they all mean?
A. It’s actually straightforward – and it’s all about matching up the numbers. The aim is to align the championship categories with those of the car classes. So, WRC2 will be open to cars from the Rally 2 class, like the Škoda Fabia Rally2, as it is now. Similarly, WRC3 will be for cars from the new Rally3 class, like M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta Rally3, which made its world debut in Finland last weekend.
Q. OK, that’s all clear. And will there still be a Junior WRC category for young hotshots in two-wheel drive machinery?
A. There will be two junior championships next year. Both WRC2 and WRC3 will feature an open championship, which, as the name suggests, is open to all drivers in that category, and a junior championship. Juniors must be under 30 in WRC2 and under 29 in WRC3 at the start of the season.
Q. So a teenage high-flier could go on to dominate the junior championships in WRC2 and WRC3 for a decade?
A. No. Junior championships will be based on experience as well as age. That means former champions can’t return to compete again in the same series and drivers who have held P1 manufacturer status in any of the previous five seasons won’t be eligible for either junior championship.
Q. The cars eligible for WRC, WRC2 and WRC3 are all four-wheel drive, so will two-wheel drive cars disappear from the FIA World Rally Championship now?
A. They will be able to compete on all championship rounds, but there won’t be a specific championship to chase for two-wheel drive cars from the Rally4 and Rally5 classes in the WRC. There will be titles for that machinery in the European Championship, from which competitors can then progress to world level in four-wheel drive cars.
Q. Will there be manufacturers’ titles in WRC2 and WRC3?
A. Teams titles will be awarded in both categories. Entrants must have a minimum of two cars to be eligible for teams’ championships.
Q. Anything else?
A. Yes. Rookie awards will be introduced. Drivers with experience of no more than three events in the championship they’re taking part in can score points. And at the other end of the scale, competitors over the age of 40 not appearing on the FIA Priority list of drivers will contest new Masters awards in the WRC.
Q. How will these changes affect the very top of the WRC and drivers like Ott Tänak and Kalle Rovanperä?
A. They won’t. The elite WRC category for Rally1 cars remains at the top of the sporting pyramid, with drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles up for grabs as they are now.