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FIA 2011 World Rally Championship - New Car Spec Q&A

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After more than a decade of two-litre turbo-charged World Rally Cars, 2011 heralds a new and exciting era for the FIA World Rally Championship with the introduction of 1.6 litre turbo-charged machinery.

Why the change to a new formula?

There are a number of reasons for change. The old formula was successful, with ten manufacturers homologating two-litre World Rally Cars, but it was time to rejuvenate the category. The 1.6 litre production vehicle is the preferred route for manufacturers, thanks to its energy efficiency. The FIA recognises the need to ally motor sport with such commercial and environmental considerations and is at the forefront of driving these issues.

In addition, there was a need to considerably reduce the cost of participation in the FIA World Rally Championship, not only to make it more sustainable for those manufacturers already involved, but to attract new makes and teams.

It is satisfying to see that the work of the FIA and various WRC stakeholders is paying dividends, with the welcome participation of one new manufacturer in 2011. Ford and CitroŽn continue to commit to the Championship and the FIA is delighted to welcome the return of MINI. It is hoped that more manufacturers will follow suit in the near future.

What is the specification of the new World Rally Car that will compete from 2011?

The car is based on the Super 2000 concept; this is the same formula as the World Touring Car, thereby potentially allowing a manufacturer to compete in both categories without additional development costs. The World Rally Car has a 1.6 litre direct injection turbo-charged engine and overall is considerably less complex with fewer electronics. Durability is also important, and certain parts will have to be homologated to withstand a much longer competition life.

How does the World Rally Car vary from the Super 2000 car?

Internally it is not too different to the 2011 Super 2000 car. The most notable change is the aerodynamic package, which includes a different front bumper and larger rear wing, giving the World Rally Car an extra visual dimension.

What is the process for homologating this World Rally Car?

Initially the manufacturer’s base Super 2000 car must be homologated. After this, a Manufacturer or WRC Team registered for the Championship can adapt this car to a World Rally Car with the addition of the aerodynamic kit and other specified but restricted parts.

Will drivers need to adapt their style of driving with these cars?

The new car will certainly not be any easier to drive. In the old World Rally Car there were a number of electronic aids, including the gearshift and launch control. Previously the ECU software was also free, and wheel and gearbox speeds could be monitored; these electronically controlled elements are all now prohibited. As an example, the new World Rally Car has no centre differential or steering wheel mounted paddle shift, resulting in a totally manual gearshift. Cost reduction has been a serious consideration in the concept of the new World Rally Car, but so has the ‘show’. These cars will look, perform and sound more spectacular and provide greater entertainment.

What is the performance difference between the old and new generation World Rally Car?

The new World Rally Car will be marginally slower on the stages, but the revs on the 1.6 litre engine will be higher and this, combined with fewer driver aids, will make the car look more impressive in competition. It is about improving the spectacle; that is not just about speed.

How have the new regulations encouraged MINI to enter the WRC?

MINI’s decision to enter the WRC was influenced not only by the costs, but also the chances of success. The new regulations offer a very attractive platform for MINI with an excellent cost/performance ratio. The goal is to win the World Championship, and the belief is with the new regulations this is an achievable aim. However, MINI realises such successes will only come with hard work.

The 1.6-litre turbo engine derived from the MINI production models was developed by BMW Motorsport for use in a wide range of racing series. That means the cost of expensive engine development is greatly reduced and the same engine can, for the first time, be used in two different motorsport World Championships (FIA WRC and FIA WTCC), and the sale of customer rally cars has been another factor that influenced the decision. The WRC provides MINI with an attractive platform coupled with reasonable costs.

Ian Robertson, a member of the Board of Management, Sales and Marketing BMW Group, said: “The new regulations mean the gap to the top is smaller than it would have been at another time. The costs of developing a car and running it in the World Rally Championship have fallen significantly since the introduction of the new FIA Super 2000 regulations. We assume the costs will be about 25 per cent lower than would have been the case in previous years. This was a huge influence on our decision to become involved.”

How has the introduction of the new World Rally Car reduced costs for manufacturers? The basic cost of the car is less, there are fewer electronic aids and the regulations state that components must last longer. In the near future, the life of engines and gearboxes – in particular – will be further extended, adding to the cost reduction. In total, it is anticipated that the cost of competing in a complete season will be reduced by at least 30%.

The new generation of World Rally Cars use materials that are more in line with production cars; what difference has this made? In order to help reduce costs, the life/cost ratio of various components has been analysed and when it has been possible to use the production car parts, this has been done. However, there are still a number of parts that clearly need reinforcement, not only for competition but safety reasons.

The cars are now smaller; has this had any impact on the safety features that can be incorporated? Back in 2008, the FIA - with the help of the FIA Institute - made significant progress with the introduction of the Advanced Side Impact System, which also incorporated use of a new specification racing seat. Working together, these developments were a further step in improving safety and were designed to help save drivers and co-drivers from serious injury in the event of a high speed side or rear impact accident. With the introduction of smaller and more compact cars this level of safety had to be maintained. Working with the manufacturers, the FIA developed an updated package, enabling the teams to incorporate them more easily into the design of the car. Equally important, the introduction of the new cars means that these elements can be cascaded down to the lower category of cars, further improving overall safety in the sport.