Sunday | 10 Jan 2016

New for 2016: Rally car developments

Seeing the latest rally car technical developments is part of the excitement of every new WRC season.

And the 90 vehicles that will start Rallye Monte-Carlo on 21 January will include everything from cutting-edge evolutions of rally winners to others that are new from the ground up.

Car-wise, here's what we can look forward to in 2016:

This season will be the last at the top level for the current spec World Rally Cars before more powerful, wider and lighter vehicles built to new FIA technical regulations are introduced in 2017 [read more here]. But while the teams at M-Sport, Volkswagen, Citroën, Toyota and Hyundai are working flat-out on their new cars, existing machines have not been forgotten.

The fundamentals might be same as 2015, but the ten-week off-season has given teams the opportunity to further fettle and improve their vehicles. We're talking detailed stuff in areas like suspension set-up and weight distribution - but the results should be awesome. In the sixth year since the current regs were introduced, these cars will be the ultimate evolution of the species. In short, they won't get any better or faster than this.

If that wasn't enough, Hyundai's different approach gives us something completely new to admire. After more than 8,000km on test roads, its long-awaited Next Generation i20 WRC car will debut in Monte Carlo. And with only a 12-month life before it too is replaced, we're expecting the car to be rapid from the off.

There are fascinating developments in the WRC 2 category too, where no less than five manufacturers are represented on the opening round. The big battle is likely to be between the early pace-setter in the R5 category, M-Sport's Ford Fiesta RS, and Skoda, who took four class wins and the teams' championship in 2015 with its new Fabia R5.

Keen to regain the upper hand, M-Sport has squeezed another 32bhp out of the Fiesta's engine in time for Monte, while a second upgrade to the chassis and aero package is due in March. Will it be enough to reel in the rapid Fabia? We'll find out soon.

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