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Why The World Rally Championship Has Gone Low-Tech

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MINI WRC Rally d'Italia Sardegna (Sardinia)

MINI WRC Rally d'Italia Sardegna (Sardinia)

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Motorsport is expensive. If you were to write "expensive" in letters the size of the Hollywood sign, you'd only be scraping the surface of how expensive it actually is.

It's bad enough competing at grassroots level but at world championship level the money involved is frankly ludicrous. And though budgets are higher for the car manufacturers competing, in the last decade or so the spending has got a little out of hand, and everything from Formula One to rallying has been cutting back.

If you follow the World Rally Championship (WRC) you'll have noticed its new, leaner format this year.

Gone are the fire-spitting Ford Focus and Citroen C4, legacies of an era that saw previous champions Mitsubishi and Subaru call it a day as costs got too high.

Instead, Ford is competing in a Fiesta, Citroen in its DS3, Volkswagen is due soon with a Polo, and even MINI has returned to the sport with the Countryman. Much of the technology has disappeared, with no ABS, clutch control, paddle shift transmission, traction control, active differentials, ride height control with GPS and more.

Also on the banned list are expensive materials like carbon fiber, magnesium and ceramics. In common with road cars, engines have been downsized too, from 2.0-liters to 1.6-liters.

Far from making the sport dull though, the tech-free approach has given the WRC a new lease of life. Competition is closer and the drivers have to work harder for their money.

Speaking with The Inquirer, Ford technical director Christian Loriaux explains: "Having all that tech was fabulous but the cost was high and it was making it too easy for drivers". Necessity being the mother of invention, engineers are now having to be more innovative with weight saving and car performance.

Though hybrid technology should be coming to the series in 2015 or 2016, a low-technology approach is undoubtedly a good thing for the series, which is slowly returning to its 1990s heydays.

Motorsport will never be cheap, but if cost-cutting continues to make the racing even better, we can forgive it a little expense...
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Comment (1)
  1. Thats freakin AWESOME! The WRC just got its balls back. Hopefully Subaru will re-enter in 2013 (or is it 2014?) with its new WRX/STi 1.8(1.6 I guess?)liter model.
     
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