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VW Polo R WRC 1

World Rally Championship – will Group B return?

In recent announcements, the World Rally Championship is in for some big changes for 2017.

Becs Williams – WRC Live Presenter

“If the WRC kept the same regulations, I think there would have been a deep sigh all round”

Where did the atmosphere of the World Rally Championship go?

In recent years the amount of manufacturers that entered the World Rally Championship has reduced dramatically. At one point I’m sure there were only two or three manufacturers that had entered. This is a big disappointment not only comparing to the 80s, but also the 90s. It’s not only about what the drivers want, but it also has to be what the fans want. Back in the 80s the cars had large amounts of downforce and a ridiculous supply of power to match. According to the recent reports there is going to be an increase in power, which will see the 2017 rally cars be running at 380bhp (up from 300bhp). There is also claims that the new rally cars will be more aggressive in appearance due to increased downforce.

Change is good for sports, especially in motorsports where certain manufacturers may excel under certain regulations and not in others. Just like Formula One, it gives other manufacturers and suppliers a chance to shine. Ultimately this is why motorsport exists, because we are watering down engineering and passing it on into road cars.

Some fans are suggesting that these new regulations will be a blast from the past, with increased torque and downforce, let’s just hope the sport has less tragic accidents than we had 30 years ago in Group B.

group-b-rally-cars-promo

Anthony Peacock, creative director of Mediatica and former Autosport Rallies editor.

“They’re obviously aiming to get back the feel of Group B”

It seems like a step in the right direction, and it has backing not only from fans but from drivers too. It looks like the WRC are looking to bring back the atmosphere! It’s all down to the FIA to handle the balancing act. As long as they can cater for manufacturers and for the fans then it’s a win-win in my opinion.

 The FIA drawing board

It’s not going to be the easiest of tasks, and seems to be the less technology the car has the more exciting the events are. Fans are still going to love seeing cars slide around, looking impossible to control. Obviously it would be great to see privateers being successful in the future Championships, but sadly there is no support like works support. With new technology always on the horizon, the downside to increasing the amount of engineering is the increase in costs. Hopefully this won’t drive privateers away.

In the eye of the public

Having a quick look through forums and social media platforms, it is very clear that fans are fantasising about what a modern day 80s era could be like. They should still look like a VW Polo or a Ford Fiesta, but will look more functional and potentially safer in terms of structural rigidity and larger crumple zones.

In the words of M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE:

“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. 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. Although the cars will look completely different and there will be some substantial work on the bodyshell, a number of key components can be enhanced and carried over from our current car. From a financial point of view, a number of parts that we are currently working to develop can be taken a step further and the whole team is really looking forward to getting started on this new project.”

brief technical overview

The power the engine produces in 2017 will be increased from circa 300bhp to 380bhp. The turbo’s restrictor will be increased from the current 34mm to a larger 36mm, helping produce that hike in power more cost effectively. Boost pressure will run at a maximum of 2.5 bar (which means it still stay the same as far as I know). That additional power will be slightly more noticeable with the 25kg weight decrease for the minimum weight requirement. The biggest change on the transmission comes with the reintroduction of an electronically controlled centre differential (which is currently strictly mechanical, to my knowledge). The chances are, we will see on-board tinkering and tuning of power distribution throughout the stages. Ultimately, I feel it makes it less exciting but the overall performance of the car should see a substantial increase.

This VW Polo R WRC unit utilises a 1,600cc in-line 4 cylinder turbocharged engine that boasts an impressive 318bhp and 430nm of torque.

VW-Polo-R-WRC-5-Rear

VW Polo R WRC – Second Generation

Nearly 18 years out, Toyota returns

Toyota has also announced their return to WRC and will be racing under the name of Toyota Gazoo Racing. Take a look at “Toyota Could Smash WRC in 2017” to find out a bit more about Toyota’s comeback.

Here we see the Toyota Corolla WRC (left) and the successor, the Toyota Yaris WRC (right).

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