“Keep R5 in mind amid new WRC rules”
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.