“Keep R5 in mind amid new WRC rules”

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - JACK BENYON

World Rally Cham­pi­onship, 2017. The fastest WRC cars of all time. Ex­cel­lent. Plenty has been made of the rule changes and whether it will hy­po­thet­i­cally im­prove the WRC spec­ta­cle or not.

My two pence on that is any­one who ac­tu­ally goes stage-side to see cur­rent cars or even R5 cars can see they’re pretty spec­tac­u­lar. They may not have the rear end drag­ging in a ditch but surely see­ing some­one fling­ing an ag­ile hatch­back from side-to-side like a pen­du­lum is just as en­ter­tain­ing. And don’t get me started on speed. Cars are al­ready quicker than Group B, and by quite a mar­gin I may add. I’m not say­ing one is bet­ter than the other, but I be­lieve cur­rent WRC gets a bum rap.

Any­way, back to the 2017 rules. And I’m wor­ried.

Here’s why. R5 has been a great big fat suc­cess. Of­fer­ing driv­ers near-wrc per­for­mance for a lower cost has ob­vi­ously worked. And driven prop­erly, an R5 can beat a cur­rent WRC car pi­loted by an av­er­age driver. We’ve seen all this.

But what hap­pens to R5 when the 2017 rules come in?

For a start, if the FIA make good on their word, only cer­tain driv­ers will be al­lowed into a 2017-spec WRC car. Fine, I think in terms of safety that’s wise.

But what it does mean is that it’s go­ing to be harder for young driv­ers to break into the WRC. Will R5 cars still be rel­e­vant when the new cars are go­ing quite a bit faster? Will a few top fives in an R5 do enough to con­vince the FIA that you’re wor­thy of a WRC seat? I’m not so sure.

Then there’s the cur­rent 2016 cars. What lies in wait for them? Word is a cham­pi­onship could be formed for them to com­pete in. Could this be a place for young­sters to get a full-fat WRC drive?

For me, there’s an­other is­sue there. The 2016 cars are go­ing to be used up by the na­tional driv­ers who want to com­pete on their home events and can’t get per­mis­sion for a 2017 car. That’s all well and good, but when the cur­rent man­u­fac­tur­ers stop mak­ing them, how long will it take un­til the ma­jor­ity of them are bro­ken? Fac­tor in the per­cent­age that will go to Europe for na­tional cham­pi­onships and there aren’t go­ing to be many op­por­tu­ni­ties. Then there’s the cost. The whole point of R5 was to re­duce the cost of run­ning a WRC car! So there’s your full cir­cle.

With that point made, surely the R5s will be less rel­e­vant? There needs to be a se­ri­ous look at the chain of pro­gres­sion for young driv­ers and what each level should of­fer. The R5 for­mula has been such a suc­cess. Why threaten it? The em­pha­sis has been placed on the fan­tas­tic new reg­u­la­tions for 2017, but we need a thought spared for how peo­ple get to it, and more im­por­tantly how driv­ers are pre­pared for the in­crease in speed.

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