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GP Week : Issue 123
Generation Super 2000 cars (NG cars are excluded this year), the PCWRC for Production Cars which includes a new category for two-wheel drive cars; and the one-make sponsored Academy car class, which replaces the old Junior championship. Interesting to note that both the SWRC and PCWRC are being fought out with obsolete designs of cars. New rules this year? The direct injection engines have introduced completely new elements in tuning work, and teams admit they are still far from exploiting their full potential. These engine rules currently affect World Rally Cars and the New Generation S2000s cars, but will soon affect the cars in other classes. The whole class structure for WRC and also regional championship events has been overhauled, catering for new car manufacturing directions and also to help integrate the new FIA Group R class system into the old system of Groups A and N. Plans to introduce sports cars (under the new R-GT categor y) have stalled, but the new Group R4 cars intended to give a renewed competitive life to the traditional N4 Mitsubishi and Subaru cars are slowly progressing. The other major change for 2011 was the sudden end to the innovative and highly-effective Pirelli single - tyre agreement, to be replaced by a supposedly open supply agreement. In the end only two companies applied to do this work, Michelin and the DMack company, which offered tyres suitable for restricted budget teams – both suppliers thus in no way rivals in the market. Michelin embraced the open market oppor tunity to produce their own concept of tyres, rather than replicate the puncture resistant tyres that Pirelli had supplied, but immediately ran into difficulties. A revised strengthened version was brought out early in the season with satisfactory results. WRC events this year are obliged to run a special, televised Power Stage at the end of the event, with supplemental drivers’ championship points, but this has proved disappointing. For sure, the live T V coverage is exciting but this is not widely available to free - to-air viewers and drivers are often deliberately driving slower on earlier stages to preserve their tyres. And anyway, aren’t rallies proving exciting enough as they are? Not a well conceived idea, and no more successful than when it was trialled in 1999. And what differences have there been since the arrival of the sport’s new President? Certainly the new President has the same habit as his predecessor in throwing controversial concepts in the air, like juggler’s balls, but already his ideas have had a worrying effect on organisers. They see themselves as fall guys in a lose-lose situation in which they risk the proven quality of their organisation by introducing unproven concepts. While the previous President, Max Mosley, arrived to find the format of the sport desperately needed more social responsibility and took appropriate action, Jean Todt sees a sport being tossed about in political storms and making no progress as a result, having no declared policy concerning what to do about it. In a positive direction comes the work of the WRC Academy, a successful after- thought training scheme which follows on from the three-year Pirelli Star Driver scheme. This was quickly conceived when the FIA suddenly cancelled plans for another three year single-tyre agreement, leaving Pirelli with an unfulfilled financial obligation to the FIA. Many WRC factors remain unresolved. The meaning of the major Russian investment in the championship promotion remains undefined, while the jury is still deliberating the wisdom of the FIA’s new policy to concentrate the WRC calendar in 2012 on events with longer association with the championship, rather than the many newer and enthusiastic events. The early seasonal emphasis on dry and dusty gravel events has again led to debates about running orders, but the second half of the season is traditionally run on either asphalt or on wetter events. Hopefully we won’t hear so much of this tiresome debate for a while! WRC review >>