Motorsports Unwrapped: Everything You Need To Know About The FIA World Rally Championship

ATRL’s Chiara Schanno explains the basics of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) for the 2024 season.

Chiara Schanno

January 26, 2024

Beautiful scenery from 4 continents, fast cars on different and challenging surfaces, insane jumps and close calls with obstacles: The FIA World Rally Championship can take your breath away. Implemented in 1973, WRC can look back on a long history as a world championship. Some individual rally events have been around for even longer, like the season-opener of Rallye Monte-Carlo that was held for the first time all the way back in 1911.

Technical aspects

After multiple generations of cars, WRC currently utilizes what they call Group Rally1 cars, first used in 2022. Each manufacturer develops their own car according to the official FIA regulations for this type of car:

  • The manufacturers’ cars must be based on an actual series production road car by them. 
  • All manufacturers must use a hybrid engine supplied by Compact Dynamics with a battery by Kreisel Electrics. 
  • WRC is also using 100% synthetic fuels supplied by P1 Racing Fuels. A Rally1 car fits exactly one driver and one co-driver. 
  • They also have enough space to carry one or more spare tyres plus tools and other spare parts for car repairs. 
  • The car plus exactly one spare tyre must weigh at 1260 kg.

Depending on the predominant surface of the rally – tarmac, gravel or snow – and weather conditions, different tyres are used. In 2024 the tyres will be provided by Pirelli before Hankook takes over for 2025-2027.

Competitors may field other types of cars, but are ineligible for manufacturers’ points if they are not entering Rally1 cars.

Teams, drivers and co-drivers

In 2024, three manufacturers compete with two full-time entries each: Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team and Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT (reigning Manufacturers’ champion). Additionally, Hyundai will enter three more cars as part-time entries, while Toyota has announced to field two part-time entries. Ford only has their full-time entries.

Belgian driver Thierry Neuville (multiple race winner; #11) and Estonian driver Ott Tänak (2019 WRC drivers’ champion; #8) will pilot Hyundai’s full-season entries with their countrymen Martijn Wydaeghe and Martin Järveoja as co-pilots respectively. Hyundai’s part-time entries will be piloted by Esapekka Lappi (FIN; co-driver Janne Ferm (FIN); #4), Dani Sordo (ESP; Cándido Carrera (ESP); #6) and Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR; Torstein Eriksen (NOR); #9). Which driver will participate in which event will be announced for each event individually. It is worth noting that Hyundai’s team principal is no stranger to many F1 fans: Cyril Abiteboul.

Ford has decided to give a drive to Luxembourgish driver Grégoire Munster ( #13) and Frenchman Adrien Fourmaux (#16). It will be the first full season for both drivers. They are joined by Louis Louka (BEL) and Alexandre Coria (FRA) as their respective co-drivers.

Toyota’s full-time drivers and co-drivers are Elfyn Evans (GBR) with Scott Martin (GBR) in the #33 car and Takamoto Katsuta (JPN) with Aaron Johnston (IRL) in the #18 car. All of them were already full-time (co-)drivers for the team in previous years. 

Championship winners Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen during last year’s Central European Rally taking place in Austria, Czech Republic and Germany. (Photo via @tgr_wrc on Instagram)

 

After winning the previous two seasons drivers’ and co-drivers’ championships, Finnish driver Kalle Rovanperä (#69) and co-driver Jonne Halttunen (FIN) have opted for a part-time entry with Toyota this year, meaning they will most probably not defend their titles for another year. Toyota’s other part-time entry is piloted by no other than French driver Sébastien Ogier, 8-time WRC drivers’ champion. He is joined in the #17 car by Vincent Landais (FRA), 3-time winner as a co-driver in WRC in 2023.

Notable well-known ex-WRC drivers include Carlos Sainz Senior (2x WRC champion) and WRC GOAT Sébastien Loeb who has won a record-breaking 9 titles between 2004 and 2012.

Event (“rally”) Format

Each rally starts with two days of reconnaissance (“recce”) during which drivers are allowed to practice the routes at limited speed. During recce, participants can take their own notes (“pace notes”) about conditions, obstacles etc. which the co-driver can use for navigation and giving commentary while driving the timed sessions. The two days used for recce are not included in the calendar dates and are not broadcasted. The next session is the shakedown at full speed on Thursday morning, another untimed session to give competitors the chance to finalize their car setup. On Thursday night or Friday morning (depends on the event), the rally itself starts.

Over the next few days, competitors fight over who can absolve all the timed sections (“special stages”) until Saturday evening in the lowest cumulative time. Special stages are held on closed roads with spectators allowed along the routes. Competitors drive to and from stages on public roads and must follow all effective traffic laws. Each day, competitors are allowed to do repair work on their cars in the so-called “service park” at three specified times: a 15-minute session in the morning before the first stage, the 40-minute session midway through the day between stages and a 45-minute session in the evening after the last stage of the day. Outside the service park only the driver and co-driver are allowed to work on the cars with tools and spare parts they carry onboard. Points are awarded to the ten fastest drivers, co-drivers and manufacturers in tiered form.

On Sunday, competitors take on more stages. The day works similar to the previous days, but is independent from their results. The fastest seven competitors receive additional points on Sunday: 7 points go to the fastest driver, co-driver and manufacturer. The second fastest driver, co-driver and manufacturer receive 6 points. It goes on like this to the seventh fastest driver, co-driver and manufacturer who get 1 point.

Should a competitor fail to finish or compete in a stage they will have the winning time of that stage plus a 10-minute time penalty to their total. Time penalties are also awarded for most other things, such as false starts, spending too much time working on the car in the service park, etc.

Calendar

The 2024 season is set to see 13 events. The season kicks off on January 25-28 in and around Monte Carlo with the season finale being scheduled for November 21-24 in Japan. The championship will travel to four continents and visit a total of 16 countries as some events take place in more than one country.

To find out how you can watch WRC, visit www.wrc.com for broadcast information for your country.

Disclaimer: This article is only about WRC and not about its support series WRC2, WRC3 or Junior WRC which have different rules & regulations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chiara Schanno was introduced to Motorsport through their family at a young age. Getting really into F1 in late 2016, they soon started to watch more series and is now particularly interested in electric racing like Formula E and feeder series racing like Formula 2. A non-motorsport related (fun) fact about Chiara is that they have stage experience in both acting and singing. They are based in Germany.

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