WRC, FIA considering cost cap in bid to attract new brands

Cost caps have recently been introduced to Formula 1 in 2021 and Formula E last season to prevent costs spiralling out of control to the detriment of the disciplines.

Currently WRC’s top Rally1 class operates without a cost cap, meaning manufacturers Toyota, Hyundai and M-Sport-Ford are free to spend what they wish on rally programmes.

WRC Promoter believes costs have been drifting away from the original figure intended for the Rally1 hybrid cars that were introduced last year. It is understood that the cost of a Rally1 car is close to a million euros, while Rally2 cars are capped at approximately 200,000 euros.

The WRC and FIA have revealed that a cost cap is an idea on the table as part of a wider discussion regarding the long-term future pathway for the WRC, as it aims to secure it target of four manufacturers.

“This is an ongoing work at the moment,” WRC senior sporting director Peter Thul told Motorsport.com.

“I remember when there was a cost assumption for the current cars. I don’t tell you the number, but it’s a little bit drifting away in the wrong direction.

“Okay, it’s engineer-driven sport and the engineers want to have the fastest cars. But a cost cap is super important.

“We have to get the costs down. The Rally1 team bosses all have to go the board and they have to justify the investment, that’s for sure.”

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

FIA technical director Xavier Mestelan Pinon agrees that if technology costs can been reduced, it will prove beneficial for manufacturers looking to achieve a better return on the investment from competing in the WRC. He also revealed the prospect for a cost cap is a key topic for prospective marques considering a future WRC programme.

“I think for a manufacturer it makes more sense to spend money on marketing and activation than money for a crazy piston or whatever you want to save 10 grams or something like that,” Mestelan Pinon told Motorsport.com.

“I strongly believe that if we can reduce the cost of the technology it would make more more sense for me, because the brand will have more power to activate. It would be good for them and good for the championship.

“I strongly believe it is a good option. It is something relevant in F1 and Formula E and it is something that is on the table if everyone can agree and it makes sense to do it.”

FIA rally director Andrew Wheatley added: “You can do cost cap in a number of ways, it doesn’t have to be a published cost cap.

“It can be a technical and sporting restriction on a regulation that can have the same effect as a cost cap.

“That has worked really well in Rally2, as there is a technical cost cap and you can see the results.”

Cyril Abiteboul, Team principal Hyundai World Rally Team

Cyril Abiteboul, Team principal Hyundai World Rally Team

Photo by: Fabien Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport

Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul is supportive of introducing a cost cap, which he feels could add more value to brands and therefore attract more marques to the WRC.

“The one thing that you need and can do is put the costs under control and see how then you can add the value,” Abiteboul told Motorsport.com.

“At the end of the day, it is all about return on investment that will be compared to different sport options that car makers have. There is a budget cap in Formula 1, there is a budget cap in Formula E, so why not here?

“I think it is all about putting the costs under control and then seeing the value. Where [do] we really need to put the value in the car, do we need sophisticated aerodynamic devices?

“I love aero but let’s keep aero where we need it to be, in Formula 1.

“We need to find a way to make the cars look spectacular but do they really look more spectacular with the big wings? I am not super convinced.

“Let’s have a fresh look. I am very much up for having a proper electrified technology solution, that the rally can run and race in full electric mode in certain circumstances, but you are never going to do that with that hybrid. That hybrid is not what we need.”

Toyota boss Jari-Matti Latvala agrees that the costs of cars needs to be reduced, but doesn’t necessarily believe an F1-style cost cap is required.

“The only thing I see is we need to get the cars to be cheaper,” he said. “They are too expensive and this is probably an area we can improve.

“I don’t think a cost cap is necessarily helping. The question is ‘how we can make the cars cheaper to run’ basically.”

His view is echoed by Richard Millener, team principal at M-Sport, which operates with the smallest budget of the three Rally1 teams.

He added: “My concern with a cost cap would be, having spoken to some people in F1, the cost cap is expensive in itself. Regulating and looking after a cost cap is very expensive.

«If you could tell me it will guarantee another two manufacturers, then I would consider. I don’t think the sport is big enough for a cost cap at the minute.

“For me, there is a cost cap idea and we can discuss it and there are ideas, but the bigger return from the sport will come from a bigger return from marketing and getting fans on board.

“The number one key takeaway for me would be to market it better. It cost Liberty Media millions to do what they are doing, but look at the return they are getting now with F1.”

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