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Changes to WRC formats and service parks to begin in 2025

Proposed changes to World Rally Championship event formats and service parks will begin to take effect from next year.

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Last week the world motorsport governing body announced raft of proposals as part of its extensive roadmap to address the future of top-level rallying.

This concept included changes to technical regulations, the abandonment of hybrid technology and the introduction of new Rally1 rules from 2026. In addition to the technical overhaul, there are plans to revamp the sporting side of the championship.

Under current regulations events must comprise at least 300 kilometres of timed stages. But from next year event organisers will now be offered more freedoms when developing the route and format of rallies as the championship aims to put together a global calendar featuring a mix of endurance and sprint-style rallies.

All events must culminate on Sundays with an end-of-rally Power Stage, while the amount of timed stage kilometres over a season will remain at its current level.

A move to less rigid formats could see the introduction of more remote services and less dependability on a central service park. The move could see some events move away from the traditional cloverleaf format that was introduced by former WRC team owner David Richards, when in charge of the WRC, 20 years ago.

The service park set-up will also undergo a change, with team structures to be locally-sourced to cut costs and provide flexibility, alongside a plan to cap the amount of personnel sent to events by teams.

Sardinia will offer a glimpse as to how sprint-style rallies will operate this year, with its 48-hour concept revealed earlier this year.

More widespread changes to events and service parks are expected to take effect from next year, according to Richards, part of the FIA taskforce behind the concept for the future. Plans to cap staff at event will be conducted in a staged process over the next two years.

“It comes into effect as soon as a possible, next year,” Richards told media including Autosport.

David Richards

David Richards

Photo by: FIA

“The personnel [cap] side of it we haven’t looked at the enforcement of that, but I hope we can bring that in for next year. It is common in other categories in motorsport, so I don’t see it as a big problem to enforce and it will help.

“As far as the service parks are concerned, straight away we can bring that in for next year. It is about freeing up the organisers in order for them to manage events without the controls that have been put on them in recent years.”

Richards explained that the move away from a reliance on the cloverleaf format is down to the fact that the advancement in technology has addressed the communication issues of the past that instigated a requirement for a central service park.

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“We looked at the events and they have been constrained over the last few years by the logistics and restricted to a centralised service,” he explained.

“It is probably worth going back 20 years to explain why we put centralised service in. In those days we had poor communication and not what we have today.

“We had safety issues on a lot of events where we needed to put more people into the stages, more marshals and more security.

“That was the priority on those days and why centralised service was established so you, the journalists, could have access to the drivers regularly during the day and so we can control safety and get better communication.

“All those issues to a great extent are resolved now, so we can free up the events to have more freedom in their organisation and the layout of their events, and give us more variety.

“There will be some events which [the cloverleaf format] suits and some events it doesn’t suit. I think a more linear route would suit some rallies and let’s have some variety.”

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Tomek Kaliński

Richards says the FIA is “open-minded” when it comes to the format of endurance rallies, which could result in events like Kenya reverting to more traditional longer stages.

He also admitted that “everything is on the table” regarding the prospect of mixed surface rallies returning in the future.

“I think we are open-minded,” he added. “We are trying to give organisers more scope and freedom to develop the rally that works for them.

“With the meeting in Kenya, they wanted to go outside Nairobi and have a second base in Mombasa, for instance, and do something of that nature.

“Let’s look at what they are proposing and see if it fits in. We’re not saying yes, we’re not saying no, but we are certainly saying let’s look at these ideas and see if it works for the World Rally Championship.

“At the moment I think we have been too prescriptive. We’ve created a formula which everyone’s had to work hard towards and I think it is not necessarily in the best interest of the championship going forward.”

 

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