FUTURE OF CURRENT WRC CARS OPEN
New 2017 rules package could render current Wrc-specification vehicles impotent
The FIA will table a proposal for the future of current World Rally Cars before the end of this month.
With 2017 and new technical regulations fast approaching, manufacturers and private teams want to know the future for the current World Rally Cars, which will remain homologated and technically legal machinery in the World Rally Championship. This year’s cars will not be competitive against the faster and more advanced 2017 WRCS.
WRC manager Jarmo Mahonen has raised concerns about the potential confusion involved with running this year’s cars next season.
“Do we really need to create something between R5 and the 2017 World Rally Cars?” Mahonen said. “Shall we screw the R5 cars by running the [2016 World Rally Cars]? That doesn’t sound good. We have so many R5 cars now, that category is clearly a success. We are discussing with the manufacturers what shall we do with the old car? I have asked for some feedback and we will have some sort of proposal by the end of the month.”
Mahonen hotly denied speculation that the current cars had already been condemned.
“Somebody told me this,” he said. “They said we had made the decision already to ban them, but that is absolutely not the case. Citroen is selling some cars to Ph-sport, Hyundai has some and, of course, M-sport is selling these current cars – but all of those teams have an R5 car. We need to talk to the guys [manufacturers] and see what we can do. I want to see the numbers before we make any decisions.”
The question of what to do with the current cars is a difficult one to answer. Many of the current private drivers are not willing to step back to R5 cars – but getting a 2017 World Rally Car could be tricky as the teams struggle to supply cars in the first half of next season. MN revealed last week that the WRC would have the final say on whether drivers are allowed to pilot the new quicker 2017 machinery.
M-sport managing director Malcolm Wilson has pointed to the gap between R5 and 2017-specification cars if current cars are outlawed.
“There will be a very big difference in performance [between R5 and WRC], it’s a massive gap,” Wilson told MN. “I think it will be quite difficult for drivers to get up to speed with the new 2017 car coming out of an R5 car. The obvious thing for me is to leave the current cars there and maybe create another tier which will fill that gap.
“We’re only looking at a year or two at the most for this solution, the [current] cars don’t have a long shelf life. The teams are all stopping building them now, with the focus moving to the new cars, so there simply won’t be the cars around in a couple of years.”
Wilson also added that turning away potential customers for the World Rally Championship made no sense, both commercially and from a sporting and spectacle perspective.
“We have got lots of customers who are really keen to compete in the World Rally Championship, and in a full-spec World Rally Car,” said Wilson.
“Understandably, the FIA wants to restrict access to the new cars, but it would be a shame to turn away more competitors when there are cars sitting around that could be used. I’m sure we’ll be able to find a solution which works for everybody.”