FIA: WRC “house is not on fire” with only three manufacturers

The World Rally Championship is healthy operating with three manufacturers but one or two new marques are needed to sustain its future, according to FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

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

Following Citroen’s departure at the end of 2019, rallying’s top tier has been contested by three manufacturers in Toyota, Hyundai and Ford, although the latter is a semi works relationship with British squad M-Sport.

This season marks the second year of the WRC’s Rally1 hybrid regulations which were originally conceived to attract fresh manufacturer interest, but has only so far only seen existing marques Toyota, Hyundai and Ford through M-Sport sign up to the current ruleset in place until the end of 2024.

However, Skoda, Alpine and the Stellantis Group, which owns Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroen, Dodge, DS, Fiat, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Opel, Peugeot and Vauxhall brands, have declared their interest in joining the WRC, if regulations are changed in the future.

A tweaked set of Rally1 regulations is expected to be revealed in two month's time for 2025 onwards which is hoped to cement the WRC’s future in a bid to attract new brands, following a series of FIA led discussions with manufacturers conducted last year.

Assessing the current state of the WRCon a visit to the Monte Carlo Rally, Ben Sulayem believes championship has made the right decision to move to Rally1 regulations, but feels more manufacturer input is required to boost the WRC.

"It is not just about the manufacturers, it is about the whole package, the drivers are there but I feel where we take the events is very important and the coverage and the spectators," said Ben Sulayem to select media including Autosport when asked if Rally1 has a future.

"I do feel that we need more manufacturers to sustain [the WRC] and we should keep on trying to bring more, but even with three manufacturers it is healthy as long as we sustain it and make sure that the new regulations are done correctly.

"I feel, to make the balance we need at least one to two manufacturers to come in. Then the competition will be there more.

"I believe the change [to Rally1] was right, last year was a big test for everyone.

"I believe a rally driver can adjust straight away and that was the case but then there was some issues with the reliability and now that the reliability is much better, talking about the hybrid, the power is there.

"So definitely the rules, we need to sustain them, make them sustainable, and this is why there are some changes that will happen. But we have to use what we have and then come up with more flexibility when it comes to the regulations."

While admitting there is a need to improve the competition, Ben Sulayem insists that the WRC’s top tier in its current guise isn’t broken..

"I don’t think our house is on fire,” he added. “I believe that we should have what we have and use it as an extension, but then come up, and take our time, and bring the right regulations.

Sébastien Ogier, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, FIA President

Sébastien Ogier, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, FIA President

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

"Of course there might be some amendments, but for the time being we should also be sure that the new rules in Rally1 are the correct rules.

"I always say that we should not just stick with it and say, ‘that’s what suits us’. Because I remember even in my days [competing] there was some rules which only came and it was not good for us.

"So, I also think we should go back and see where we had an issue that was not sustainable. I am not saying the sustainability of the environment, I’m saying actually sustaining the motorsport.

"We should go back and listen to the drivers and also to the manufacturers and the press.

"We just need to be more engaging and coming up with something."

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