In­creased speed brings safety wor­ries for com­peti­tors and or­gan­is­ers

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By David Evans

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

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