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WRC, the world’s most challenging international motorsport series.
Snow, ice, high altitudes, rocks, gravel, dangerous drop-offs and even rainforest – not for nothing is the FIA World Rally Championship described as the planet’s most challenging motorsport series.
Each of the 13 countries hosting the WRC, including Australia, presents a different scenic and cultural backdrop to an intense competition between makes and drivers.
(Visit www.wrc.com for more about the WRC)
Rally Racing vs Circuit Racing
Rally cars run one at a time against the clock on closed stages of usually-public roads. Around 20 stages run over several days make up a complete WRC rally. The fastest total time takes the win.
Circuit racers complete against each other in large fields over multiple laps of an enclosed circuit. First past the flag wins.
Rally crews earn points for their finishing positions. The champion is the biggest points-earner at the end of the season.
Rally crews comprise a driver and co-driver (navigator), who calls out “pace notes” that guide speed and direction.
Technical regulations specify that rally cars are based on mass-production enclosed passenger vehicles such as hatchbacks, sedans or coupes. Circuit racers can be of many different types, also including open sports cars and traditional single-seaters.
Circuit racers drive single-handed, but may take turns in a race with a teammate.
Rally top speeds usually are lower than circuit racers. Rally courses have fewer straight stretches and the ability of cars to brake, turn and accelerate better is more important than outright speed.
Instead of racing pit stops. rally cars take scheduled Service Breaks several times a day. In just 20 minutes, rally mechanics can perform major repairs or component replacements.
Finally, rally cars must be road-legal and registered, so they can be driven on “liaison stages” that link the different competition Special Stages.
So, WRC pits drivers in (modified) production-based cars on normal roads in the vastly varying terrain and weather conditions of 14 countries on four continents. What could be more challenging than that?
It’s an old debate, whether rally drivers are better than circuit racers.
While circuit racers try to string together laps of equal perfection of a course that stays virtually unchanged, rally drivers face constantly varying conditions. This demands intense concentration.
On gravel roads, the surface grip and profile can be different for each car, affecting speed. Different cars may have very similar performance, but their characteristics all will be different due to factors such as tyre treads and composition, weight and individual driver technique.
Prepare to be amazed at Coates Hire Rally Australia that different drivers in different cars, on different tyres at different times of the day can complete a Special Stage within seconds of each other.
The most successful driver in the history of four-wheel world championships is Frenchman Sebastien Loeb. The former international gymnast won nine straight Drivers World Championships for his Citroen team. Germany’s Michael Schumacher won a mere seven titles over more years in Formula 1.
The WRC is regulated and controlled by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body for worldwide motorsport.
Most WRC rallies follow the same basic itinerary: two days’ reconnaissance on Tuesday and Wednesday to enable the driver and co-driver to learn the route, “shakedown” – in effect, practice – on Thursday morning, Ceremonial Start on Thursday afternoon, followed by the competition itself on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Some events a include “Super Special Stage”, a city-based, short sprint test which often features two cars racing head-to-head, designed for spectator appeal. The SSS opens the rally on Thursday night at some WRC rounds. At Kennards Hire Rally Australia, the Destination NSW Super Special Stage on the Jetty Foreshore on Friday and Saturday evenings is one of the most spectacular and scenic in the WRC calendar.
Started in 1973, the WRC over the years has been a battleground for makes including Toyota, Subaru, Ford, Citroen, Fiat, Audi, Mitsubishi, Mini and Peugeot. The series attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators in some countries and a huge global television audience for every round.
In 2017 you can watch live stage coverage as well as daily highlights packages from all 13 rounds of the WRC on Australia Fox Sports. WRC+ gives internet users live stages, live timing and tracking and live on-board cameras, while Red Bull TV’s dedicated WRC channel broadcasts free daily updates for computers or mobile devices (get the free App).
Check out www.wrc.com for more about the World Rally Championship including news, stage-by-stage updates, results, photos, videos, WRC Live radio, the WRC6 video game and other interactive resources.
Underneath their colourful sponsor livery, the 2017 World Rally Cars look a lot like their donor production models seen every day on the road. The outright contenders are Ford Fiestas, Hyundai i20s, Citroen C3s, and Toyota Yaris, while even more makes fill the WRC2 and WRC3 support categories.
The consumer relevance of the WRC means it’s a major marketing battleground for the world’s big car makers. The road going versions are for sale all over Australia, but you would need hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the specially-constructed, highly-sophisticated rally equivalents.
WR cars must conform to a set of technical specifications designed to achieve performance that is as equal as possible. Key requirements include a 1.6 litre turbocharged petrol engine, six-speed transmission with motorcycle-type sequential shifting, all-wheel drive and a minimum weight including crew.
For 2017, revised technical specifications have resulted in the fastest cars in the WRC’s history –
- Power has increased to around 380 HP and cars sound louder and more exciting
- Minimum weight is less
- Wheel track is wider for more road grip
- More aerodynamic freedoms increase downforce to improve roadholding
- “Active” centre differentials allow more efficient distribution of all-wheel-drive power between front and rear wheels
- Cars have enhanced side crash protection
Manufacturer teams in 2017 represent Ford (via M-Sport), Citroen, Toyota and Hyundai. Toyota is returning to the WRC after 17 years and Citroen sat out 2016 while developing its new car. With all-new cars, new teams and different driver line-ups, the outright competition has never been tougher. Behind the new cars, last year’s “superseded” outright contenders now run in the new Trophy category, while WRC2 and WRC3 return as hotly-contested support categories for up-and-coming stars.