PHOTO: Concept design shows the way WRC cars could look in 2017.
A SPECTACULAR new era in the FIA World Rally Championship is around the corner after the announcement of rules from 2017 to give cars more power, less weight, better aerodynamics and aggressive looks reminiscent of the infamous Group B machines of the 1980s.
An outline of new WRC technical regulations was approved by the world motor sport governing body, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), meeting in Mexico City yesterday.
“Seeing one of these cars in action will really set the heart racing and that’s exactly what was intended,” FIA Rally Director Jarmo Mahonen said after a meeting of the organisation’s World Motor Sport Council, which includes Australian representatives.
Australia is part of the 13-country WRC, which will return to the New South Wales Coffs Coast for the annual Coates Hire Rally Australia on 11-13 September this year.
WRC cars, which are based on big-selling production models including the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Hyundai i20, will be allowed an increase in maximum power from their 1.6 litre turbocharged engines from 224 kiloWatts (300 horsepower) to 283 kW (380 hp).
The cars’ minimum weight will be reduced by 25 kilograms to 1175 kg, while new aerodynamic freedoms will allow bigger rear wings and side skirts and extended front and rear overhangs.
Mahonen said all the sport’s stakeholders had been involved in the changes, in order to meet the fans’ expectations plus commercial, marketing and promotional objectives.
Representatives of the four makes currently contesting the WRC, Volkswagen Citroen, Hyundai and Ford, immediately welcomed the upgraded regulations, which also will be the basis for the return of the world’s second-biggest vehicle manufacturer, Toyota, to the competition in 2017.
“These new regulations mark the start of an exciting new era for the FIA World Rally Championship. Not only will the 2017 cars look a lot more spectacular, but we will also see an increase in power and performance,” said Malcolm Wilson, Managing Director of the Ford-powered M-Sport team.
“The concept really does remind me of the Group B days. When you combine the exhilaration of that era with the fantastic safety measures that the FIA have worked to implement, this marks the start of a thrilling new chapter for the WRC.”
Group B from 1982 fostered a so-called golden era of rallying and some of the most powerful and sophisticated rally cars ever built, including the legendary Audi quattro S1. It ended after the 1986 season amid concerns the cars had become too fast.
Double World Champion Sebastien Ogier, driver for the Volkswagen Motorsport team that has dominated the WRC since the beginning of 2013, said the new look and performance for 2017 WRC cars was great news.
“As a racing driver you are always looking for more performance. I think the larger wing and new aerodynamics will give the car a bit more downforce, more grip and more speed going into the corners,” Ogier said.
“This is also good for the show, because the extra power will definitely make the driving more spectacular for the fans.”
Oliver Ciesla, Managing Director of the championship’s commercial rights holder WRC Promoter, said fans had been consulted in a recent survey about what they wanted.
“An already exhilarating sport will become even more so in 2017 thanks to the WMSC’s approval of new technical principles today and fans have every right to be excited about the positive direction in which WRC is heading here,” he said.