Motorsport’s world governing body is keen to set the WRC’s future course for the next three to five years following the launch of its new Rally1 hybrid regulations for 2022, which are expected to last until the end of 2024.
Rally1 is the first step towards a more sustainable future for the WRC with regulations focusing on all-new hybrid vehicles capable of producing 500 horsepower in short bursts, powered by sustainable fossil-free fuel.
The hybrid regulations were originally conceived as a means of attracting new manufacturers to the WRC, and as Toyota and Hyundai have renewed their commitment and Ford has stepped up its support for M-Sport, a new brand will not has not entered the competition yet.
The FIA is keen to expand the number of manufacturers at the top of the WRC with new chairman Mohammed Ben Sulayem saying “two and a half manufacturers is not enough” in December.
During the Monte Carlo season opener in January, Ben Sulayem’s assistant, Robert Reid, a former world champion co-driver, revealed that the FIA was already starting to think about its next set of regulations, which should start at the end of the current three-year cycle in 2025.
Since January, the FIA has been working to understand the next step for the WRC, which includes a period of consultation with European-based manufacturers, which is expected to conclude within the next month.
A consultation period will then be held with manufacturers based outside Europe before all information is processed to allow the FIA to compose a roadmap for the future of the WRC.
“The intention is to process all of this data in September and then lay out a roadmap of what the next three to five years will look like,” FIA rally director Andrew Wheatley told Motorsport. com.
“We believe this is our timeline and by working with existing partners they are in sync with this.
“Manufacturers are becoming quite comfortable and have a lot more experience in how to run and manage these [Rally1] cars and understand what might be an option in the future.
“If we assume the safety cell is here to stay and the drivetrain, suspension and brakes, we’re looking at what adjustments could we make, and that’s the consultation we’re going through right now.
“I expect that once we move to New Zealand (September) we will be able to work out where the next steps will be and that will be confirmed by the commissions before the end of the year.”
Picture by: M-Sport
Speaking to Motorsport.com earlier this year, Wheatley predicted the next set of rules would see 80% of current Rally1 regulations carried over instead of a complete revolution.
In recent months, Alpine, Skoda and the Stellantis group, which owns the brands Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge, DS, Fiat, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Opel, Peugeot and Vauxhall, have declared their interest in joining the WRC. , if regulations are changed, with at least two brands keen on a more electric future.
According to Wheatley, consultations with European manufacturers have so far been encouraging. But he stresses that the key to attracting manufacturers is to provide an arena for a marketing opportunity alongside a customer rally car sales program in the various WRC classes.
“I think you have to think of rallying as 100% activity. You can’t just watch Rally1, Rally2 and Rally3, you have to watch the whole pyramid,” he added.
“One of the things we have right now is that we have interest at all levels. We have people actively developing new vehicles at all levels. I think that gives manufacturers the ability to look and see that it’s not just a great way to sell our brand, but a great way to become a business entity.
“Discussing with some of the European manufacturers, rallying is no longer just a marketing activity. It’s a marketing activity and a customer sales operation. If there is a customer sales operation that underwrites or is a positive way to support a program that is what sustainability is to us, it gives us the opportunity to make it an industry.
“If you only have a marketing business, you’re at the mercy of the marketing people, which can be positive with things like hybrid technology and fossil-free fuels. If there’s a customer business, it has much more longevity thanks to the sale of rally cars to customers regardless of the level of the pyramid.