Abiteboul urges FIA to ponder any radical changes to WRC formula

The FIA is currently evaluating the future of WRC’s top tier which has resulted in the creation of a working group headed by FIA Deputy President Robert Reid, the 2001 World Rally Championship title-winning co-driver, and 1981 WRC co-driver champion David Richards, who is the chairman of Motorsport UK. The group has been tasked to “evaluate and recommend the future direction of rallying”.

Motorsport.com understands that the future of the WRC’s main class is at the centre of the debate, with a continuation of Rally1 rules, moving to Rally2 and the creation of a Rally2 Plus class among the options being discussed. In theory, the FIA could implement changes as soon as next year.

The FIA has also launched a fan survey last week to acquire further data to help decide the pathway for the WRC, which is expected to be presented at the World Motor Sport Council on 28 February.

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Hyundai has been vocal in committing to Rally1 until the conclusion of the five-year homologation cycle, anticipated to be at the end of 2026, having committed significant investment into developing its i20 N Rally1 for the next two years. 

Abiteboul continued this stance after witnessing his team edge Toyota to victory at the season opener in Monte-Carlo last month, which the Hyundai boss felt showed the positives of the current regulations.

“We know what we want to do, and we have a very clear plan, so it is all about executing it,” Abiteboul told Motorsport.com when asked about the development plan for the i20N.

Podium: Winner Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1 with Cyril Abiteboul, Team principal Hyundai World Rally Team

Abiteboul with Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and Martijn Wydaeghe after they won Rallye Monte-Carlo

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

“For that, we also need a bit of clarity of the plan for the sport as you develop a car in accordance to a set of regulations. Right now, we can only assume that the regulations are the ones that are published so the only thing in between us executing that plan is a change of the rules, which will require us to re-visit our strategy. We have got different options we can activate, so I’m not too worried.

“The sport needs some stability, and when I see weekends like what we had in Monte Carlo, obviously I’m biased as we left on top, but when I see the crowd and the excitement of everyone and how competitive it was, yes, we have [few] cars but sometimes you need to balance quantity and quality.

“And I think in terms of quality, we had something fantastic and super competitive until the last stage. I would urge FIA to ponder any radical change to the formula that we have, which frankly needs to be properly respected.”

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The WRC Promoter is not directly involved in the decision-making process for the category’s technical regulations moving forward but has indicated a wish for a “clear” and “attractive” set of regulations.

“The only thing we ask and will push for is a clear set of regulations as fast as possible which works for manufacturers and works for the sport and gives us an option to attract more manufacturers to the sport,” said WRC’s senior sporting director Peter Thul.

“This is a responsibility of the FIA, and we appreciate every effort to help the sport become better.” 

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