WRC SPEED QUESTIONED AMID 2017 RULES
Increased speed brings safety worries for competitors and organisers
The increased speed from the 2017 World Rally Championship cars is causing unease within the service park as the rules package enters the spotlight.
There is increasing discontent at the potential speed and potential lack of spectacle of 2017 World Rally Cars – most of which have begun testing this week.
Stage times are set to tumble next season, when the world’s fastest rally cars start the 2017 season. The speed comes from more power, the return of a centre differential to make the cars more efficient, and more downforce generated from increased aerodynamics.
Unwilling to talk on the record, MN has been contacted by a number of drivers and co-drivers concerned at the potential speed of the cars next season.
One frontrunning driver told MN: “In places like Finland, the speeds could be a lot higher. We could be cutting half a minute off some stage records. This comes from the aero and the centre diff and we have to think about what we’re going to be doing here. There are places on last year’s [Finland] route where you really wouldn’t want to be going much quicker.”
A senior official inside the WRC admitted the organisers had unified opinions against the 2017 changes.
“Average speeds in stages are under consideration at the moment,” said the source. “There’s a little bit of frustration from some [event] organisers at the teams being given a free hand to make the cars quite a lot faster.”
Volkswagen’s Jari-matti Latvala admitted he had concerns over the 2017 upgrades: “I like the power, that is a good thing. The one thing I am a little bit afraid for in the new car is that the aerodynamics will give the car so much more grip – especially on Tarmac. From the outside, this could make the car look a little bit less spectacular; the cars are not going to be more spectacular when they are sitting down even more on the ground.”
Typically, Latvala had a solution, adding: “My personal view is that maybe we should look at not giving so much support to the aerodynamics at the front of the car, the front bumper. If we left the front of the car as it is now, we wouldn’t have the aero and we wouldn’t be able to turn in so quick – it’s the front of the car that’s generating a lot of the grip and speed.”
Volkswagen has been running a 2017 mule car since last August, with Marcus Gronholm driving much of the time.
Asked for his opinion of the new regulations, the two-time world champion told MN: “The car is fast, this is sure and it feels really nice. On the Tarmac, I was pushing hard and making some fast times on the test stage, but when I came out of the car somebody was asking me: ‘Hey, is your grandmother driving?’ Maybe the cars could be too efficient? I don’t know.”
Hyundai team principal Michel Nandan is not convinced the cars will be too different next season.
Nandan said: “I don’t think the engine will make too much difference. Yes, we have more power, but the torque is still quite the same – so in the twisty sections and in places for the acceleration, the new cars won’t be so different. I don’t think the changes in the aero will be too drastic because we are still using the same tyres and this is what limits the grip.”
Nandan’s opposite number at Citroen, Yves Matton, added that the drivers themselves could be blamed for the lack of spectacle and that the aero changes could be cosmetic.
“The driver’s way to drive has changed,” said Matton, “they know it’s not the way to slide on Tarmac, so they will not slide.
“I think the rear wing is a little bit more for the eye. I don’t think it’s as efficient as the rear wing we have in World Touring Car Championship – it’s not quite the same.”
VW has been testing 2017 Polo mule
Latvala: 2017 cars have more grip