FIA rally director predicts WRC Rally1 regulation evolution for 2025

The World Rally Championship’s Rally1 regulations will undergo an “evolution” rather than a “revolution” for the next rule cycle beginning in 2025, according to new FIA rally director Andrew Wheatley.

FIA rally director predicts WRC Rally1 regulation evolution for 2025

Rallying’s top tier has ushered in arguably its most seismic shift in regulations this year with the introduction of Rally1, which is built around all-new hybrid cars, powered by sustainable fossil free fuel.

Toyota, Hyundai and M-Sport Ford have committed to this new set of regulations for the next three years, but the FIA is already working on the WRC’s future direction from 2025 onwards.

The FIA is holding weekly meetings to understand the best path forward for the sport, but it appears the WRC’s immediate future is set to be governed by a tweaked version of the current Rally1 regulations.

Although difficult to predict the future, Wheatley believes 80% of the current Rally1 rules will be carried over to the next cycle that is set to begin in 2025.

“The next generation of Rally1 won’t be the same number of changes that we had for this generation of Rally1,” Wheatley told Autosport.

“I would say 80% of what we currently have in Rally1 will continue for the next cycle or two cycles. I think what we will find is a change in the mix and then there will be at some point a big step in how we will divert the technology, whether that is a range extender or hydrogen, full battery electric, honestly at that point I don’t know.

“I don’t think you will see in 2025 a huge flip to something drastically different. I think the target that everybody has in the automotive industry is more towards 2029 or 2030 to be able to settle on which energy system going forward.

“I think we have got an evolution coming before a revolution. We have to work very closely with all the stakeholders and that process has already started to understand what the next step looks like.

“It is not just the manufacturers that we have currently in the WRC at all the levels, it is about engaging with the wider [manufacturer players] because the big players we have at the moment will probably continue to be big players. But they will inevitably be joined by others from different regions, and that is the exciting thing for future.”

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: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport

With Rally1 regulations expected to be largely unchanged moving forward, Wheatley is hopeful this will help encourage new manufacturers to commit, given there will be sufficient lead time to develop future programmes.

“At the end of the day the regulations for engines and transmissions are so tight it is very difficult, but not impossible for one manufacturer to step ahead of other manufacturers in terms of development,” he added.

“Where you can step ahead in terms of development is your overall package is making sure your car is best suited to the wildly different terrains over the course of the year.

“If the chassis the brakes, the suspension and the aerodynamics are not changing cycle to cycle you really want to get involved in the process to get the maximum out of it.

“I think that does encourage manufacturers to get involved because motorsport doesn’t happen in six or nine months. You don’t decide today that I’m going to be winning world championship events next January. It is a two to three year cycle, people need to get the resources and the team built around them to be able to do that.”

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While relatively stable regulations could allow new marques to consider joining the WRC, Wheatley understands that the automotive industry is currently facing several challenges that make committing to motorsport difficult.

“I think right now manufacturers have got plenty of challenges on their table,” he said. “There are supply chain issues for all manufacturers and we are coming out of two years of COVID disruption.

“When you link the COVID disruption, to the supply chain challenges and to the energy solution issues, it is very difficult to sit down and talk to them and for them to give you a clear understanding of what the future looks like.

“That is why we need to be seen as a laboratory and keep opportunities open. It won’t happen as a big switch.”

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