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WRC Rally Estonia

WRC Sunday format tweak, new points structure under discussion for 2024

Sunday format changes, a new points structure and a fan grid walk are among the ideas being discussed by the World Rally Championship and FIA that could be introduced next year.

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1

The WRC is currently undergoing an extensive review in a bid to improve its appeal following recent criticism from drivers, teams and fans.

A list of ideas put forward by stakeholders have been collated following several meetings over the last two months. The WRC Promoter and FIA are now working on a proposal of changes for 2024 that will eventually be tabled to the FIA World Motor Sport Council later this year.

The first wave of tweaks to events were successfully introduced in Estonia last weekend, which included replacing a pre-event press conference with a new “meet the crews” show held on stage in front of thousands of fans at the ceremonial start. This, in addition to the post-event press conference, were live streamed to fans for free for the first time, receiving a positive response.

However, more significant changes to championship events won’t be made until next year with the WRC confirming that improving its Sunday format is at the top of its agenda.

Sunday has come in for criticism as crews are often cruising to save tyres before the rally-ending Power Stage, where bonus points are up for grabs. WRC senior sporting director Peter Thul has revealed that one idea under discussion to improve the show is to develop a new points structure.

“Sunday [format] is the top of the list,” Thul told Autosport.

“I was even surprised when I got the internal data but a lot of people are watching rallying on Sunday morning and we would like to have Sunday as a proper finale, and that’s not because nothing happens on Friday and Saturday.

“We would like to avoid cruising. There was a discussion about whether a fresh set of tyres would help. A large group of the drivers said no. There is not a 100% proper solution.

Fans

Fans

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

“We are thinking and discussing, without any finalisation so far, whether a certain smart points system would help to make them go faster on Sunday.

“This would mean that someone who has had to rejoin under Super Rally [rules] could get more points which would be worth the driver to invest in. At the moment if there is somebody that is out of the points, they are cruising the last three stages, and then they go for it on the Power Stage.

“I cannot tell you a number [in terms of how the points system will work] because it is not decided, but it has to be balanced with the rest of the system.

“The winner should get the most points and clearly those who finish the rally must have a benefit for that or otherwise we devalue the days before. We have to make it not too complicated for the audience.

“Maybe we can also have the tyre fitting zone or regroup before the Power Stage, that is more interactive. A grid walk [with fans] and things like that. This has to be harmonised with the parc ferme rules, but there is a way to do it. The good news is there is nobody road blocking anything.”

Thul also revealed that a return of the qualifying stage to determine road order for a rally at the start of the event is being discussed.

The format is currently being used in the European Rally Championship and was briefly part of the WRC from 2012-2014.

Shortening WRC events has also been tabled along with the introduction of a remote service on Saturday to allow media and fans to interact with the drivers more. Morning services on gravel rallies are unlikely to return to ensure all staff working in the championship do not exceed working 10 hours a day.

Service park, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Service park, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT

Photo by: Toyota Racing

“It [the qualifying stage] works very well in the ERC but if we do it wrong then we could end with the total domination of one driver and then we have exactly what we had before,” Thul added.

“I’m not against it, I personally like it but we have to see the other disadvantages. We don’t want to screw it up. We have to carefully evaluate and get all of the information.

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“We discussed about shortening the format not on every event. We think maybe sometimes shorter stages can bring more excitement and we can show more cars. Everything is on the table. It was really fruitful discussion that we had.

“I think we will change and not everything immediately, and if we do decisions maybe somebody will be disappointed. I'm quite confident next year will be better than this year.”

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