2020 has seen the introduction of a new rallying pyramid created by the FIA and this handy guide will keep you up-to date with what’s what when it comes to different car classes.
Designed by FIA Rally Director Yves Matton with the idea of simplifying the car classes used in both national and worldwide rallying, the pyramid is set to play a pivotal role in the sport over the coming years.
As you can see below, it’s split into five different bands, all featuring different performance levels and also cost.
These are to put it simply, the fastest rallying cars currently available and are used in the top class of the FIA World Rally Championship. These are the highest level of cars currently in the sport and include the Toyota Yaris WRC that Sebastien Ogier recently took to his seventh title earlier this month.
The Hyundai i20 WRC and M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC also appear, along with the now non-competing Citroen C3 WRC after the French manufacturer withdrew at the end of 2019. A 2017-spec Volkswagen Polo WRC also exists despite never being rallied competitively following the team’s decision to quit the class at the end of the 2016 season.
This top class has been around since its introduction at the beginning of 2017 and has seen some of the fastest – and more imported safest – rally cars created for it. Take Ott Tanak’s mammoth accident on his Hyundai debut at Monte Carlo at the beginning of the season – he walked away uninjured, despite the car being completely destroyed after a high speed trip into the trees.
With a new set of hybrid-powered regulations set to come into force in 2022, these ‘next generation’ vehicles will also be classed as Rally1 when they join the championship. although will obviously be built to different technical regulations when they’re ready for action.
Rally2 becomes what has been known for the last few years as R5. These four-wheel-drive, manufacturer-built cars are entered in national championships around the world – usually in private hands – and it’s arguably the most popular rally format currently around.
The WRC also caters for these cars in the form of WRC2 and WRC3. Both feature the ‘same’ types of cars, but the WRC2 class are entrants ran by manufacturers themselves. For example in 2020, Mads Ostberg took the Citroen C3 R5 to the championship win, with Jari Huttunen taking the WRC3 title with a privately ran Hyundai i20 R5.
This category is seeing something of a revamp over the next few months. In mid-2019, M-Sport Ford were the first manufacturer to introduce the ‘next generation’ of their car with the MK2 Fiesta R5, and were closely followed by Skoda who released the Fabia Rally2.
Both Citroen and Hyundai have also recently revealed details about new and updated cars that are coming next year, although interestingly Citroen have chose to ‘update’ the current C3 R5 rather than focus on a completely new car in a bid to reduce costs for potential and current customers.
Volkswagen do have the Polo R5 available, although the German manufacturer recently revealed they’ll stop producing the car shortly following a decision to withdraw from motorsport competition globally.
Other noticeable cars include the Proton Iriz R5, which was homologated into the class at the beginning of 2020. A pair of these newly-developed cars were entered into the British Rally Championship before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the season to a halt.
Personally, I quite like this idea of having ‘ready to rally’ cars avaliable to customers. It reminds me of the TCR touring car format and the GT3 system too, where anyone can ask a manufacturer to buy a car ‘off the shelf’ that can be entered in championships around the world. It works well and gives teams a wide range of series’ to enter if they wish, as well as having several different cars to choose from too.
This new class recently saw the first car officially revealed for it – the M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally3.
This, as you may have guessed, has been created in 2020 to try and bridge the gap between Rally2 – which features four-wheel drive machinery – and Rally4 which is two-wheel drive only.
The price of the cars has also been capped at 100,000 euros – in line with the pricing of the other classes – to try and encourage up and coming competitors to use the new class as a starting point for four-wheel drive action before potentially upgrading to Rally2 in the future.
M-Sport’s recent unveiling of its new car for the class also means it currently stands as the only manufacturer to have a car in each category, although both WRC rivals Hyundai and Toyota have reportedly shown an interest in the Rally3 regulations, with potential announcements happening next year.
Not much is known about this class in terms of competition, although the FIA European Rally Championship this week unvieled plans to introduce these new cars into a revamped FIA ERC Junior class that replaces ERC1 Junior with the winner of the class being given five events in the 2022 FIA Junior World Rally Championship as a prize.
Another name change, this time for what was known as R2-spec cars. As like with Rally2, these cars have been around for a while and are popular in championships such as the British Junior and FIA European ERC3 Rally championships.
Rally4 features two-wheel-drive machines again built by manufacturers and usually privately entered by competitors in a similar fashion to Rally2 above. The new-for-2020 M-Sport Rally4 Ford Fiesta is the first car to be built to these updated regulations, with an upgrade kit available for owners of the R2-spec MK8 Fiesta.
Rally4, as like with several of the classes discussed here, has been redeveloped with the future in mind, and is set to see several new cars developed over the next few years. Peugeot Sport have been next to reveal a revamped car, with the French manufacterer recently revealing they’ve sold over 140 208 Rally4’s that will be used around the world in 2021.
Again, M-Sport are involved in this class too! They’re joined by Renault, who earlier this year intrdouced the Clio R.S. Rally, with the idea behind this bottom ‘section’ of the pyramid being to help new drivers compete in rallying without the higher costs of some of the cars above.
Based on the ST-line car, the R1 spec Fiesta that’s currently eligible for this class can either be converted from an actual road car or built purposely for the sport from the off. It can also be upgraded if needed to Rally4 spec, helping to ensure that competitors really can move up each step of the rallying pyramid.
Renault’s car is purpose built for the job and has been designed to be used around Europe in championships such as their own Clio Trophy France series, with as like M-Sport, the manufacturer offering a prize drive in something more powerful in the future. The Clio seems popular too, with over 30 entries having contested the 2020 championship in its first year.
This idea of having a car that can be used in more than one class is also a useful touch to customers, especially given the cost associated with the sport, and makes progressing throughout the rallying ranks a realistic target for more drivers.