WRC Beginners Guide
A brief guide to all things WRC
The 2021 World Rally Championship will mark the 48th official running of the world championship. This year features 12 rounds, opening in Monte Carlo, and finishing in Japan.
2021 will mark a historical year for the WRC, as we return to Kenya for the Safari rally, after an absence of 19 years, as well as the return of the Acropolis Rally in Greece, Rally Japan, and brand new rallies in Croatia, Belgium, and the Arctic Rally Finland.
WRC Cars are the pinnacle of rally cars. They have to be loosely based on the outer shell of a road going car, however this is where the similarities to a standard road car ends. Each WRC car features a turbo charged engine, with a 36mm intake restrictor. The engine is rebored to provide a capacity of 1.6 Litres, and the cars are fitted with a 6 speed sequential gearbox, which can be operated by a paddle shifter. The cars are 4WD, and output 380bhp, while this power is helped put into the ground by the extremely complex aerodynamical features. It is important to note that while these cars have been extensively modified, each car is road legal, and the FIA complete random checks to ensure this rule is adhered to.
The aggresive aerodynamic features of the latest WRC Cars (Jaanus Ree/ Red Bull Content Pool)
3 manufacturers will be competing in the WRC, aswell as 1 privateer run development team.
Hyundai enter 2021 as returning manufacturer champions, after winning the title 2 years in a row. Thierry Neuville and Ott Tanak will lead the lineup, with Craig Breen and Dani Sordo alternating in the third car. Pierre Loubet, also lines up in a privately run Hyundai i20, ran by 2c Competition, for the entire season.
Toyota have come into 2021 in a very strong position, with 7 time and last years world champion Sebastian Ogier, aswell as last years runner up Elfyn evans, and young gun Kalle Rovanpera lining up alongside them. Takamoto Katsuta will also be driving a Toyota Yaris WRC as a development driver, in a semi works outfit, for the entire year.
M-Sport enter this year on the backfoot, with limited backing by Ford, and what appear to be financial issues. They will only run 2 cars this year, driven by Gus Greensmith, who plans to drive the full calendar, while the second car will be shared by Teemu Suninen & Adrien Fourmaux. M-Sports main focus this year will be developing their young drivers, aswell as the 2022 car.
Sebastian Ogier- Sebastian Ogier returns as one of the favourites, having won 7 world titles, with co-driver Julien Ingrassia. They have asserted themselves as one of the greatest pairings in the WRC, only being beaten on world titles by Sebastian Loeb.
Elfyn Evans- Evans returns this year, after the disappointment of 2020, where he was in the strongest position to win the title, before sliding of the road in Monza, handing the title to Ogier. Evans has proven himself to be a man of consistency, who really shines on gravel, and with co-driver Scott Martin, will be a force to be reckoned with this year.
Thierry Neuville- Neuville enters this year with a new co-driver, Martijn Wydaeghe, and will be hoping to go one better than in previous years, finishing the championship in second no less than 5 times. Winner on all surfaces, aswell as having been with Hyundai since their return, will hopefully serve him well this year.
Ott Tanak- World champion in 2019, Tanak and Martin Jarveoja enter this year hoping for better, after having a huge crash in Monte Carlo last year, and struggling with reliability throughout last season, left his results lacking. Tanaks raw speed, makes him formidable on any type of road, however this flat out approach has led to some huge crashes, Monte Carlo 2020 and Mexico 2015, but if he can keep it on the road, looks to be one of the favourites.
Kalle Rovanpera- Son of WRC winner Harri, Kalle is one of the underdogs this year, still learning his way around a WRC car, has still shown incredible pace for such a young driver. If left unchecked, Kalle could be a dark horse in the title fight.
Takamoto Katsuta- Katsuta enters this year aiming to gain experience, former racecar driver is partnered with the experienced Dan Barritt, and will be aiming to finish well at his home event in Japan.
Gus Greensmith- Entering this year as M-Sports lead driver will be no easy feat for Greensmith, who has yet to compete in a full WRC season. Previously he has struggled to find the limits of his Fiesta WRC, often being way off the pace or crashing out of the event, he has partnered with experienced co-driver Chris Patterson, in hopes his experience will help guide him this year.
Pierre Loubet- Pierre Loubet also enters this year aiming for experience, taking part in a full season with his privately run Hyundai i20 WRC. Son of Yves Loubet, Pierre will hope to use his fathers experience, to help gain experience in the i20, alongside Vincent Landais.
Craig Breen & Dani Sordo- Breen & Sordo will share the third i20 this year, both fast rally drivers, with Breen taking on the faster rallies, while Sordo will take on the slower, more technical rallies.
Teemu Suninen & Adrien Fourmaux- Teemu Suninen has moved from a primary role to a support role, and will aim to guide Greensmith using his WRC knowledge, while Adrien Fourmaux will aim to gain valuable WRC experience, in his first season in the top tier of rally cars.
The championship begins in Monte Carlo for its 89th running, held on a mixed surface of ice, snow and tarmac, it will be a true test of tyre strategy, aswell as guts on the slippery surface. The championship then heads to Lapland, for the Arctic Rally Finland, held entirely on Snow, competitors will traverse the extremely fast snow covered roads, in one of the fastest rounds of the year. The season then heads to Croatia, for its inaugural running, where slippery tarmac will make the roads tricky, and any mistake will be punished by the trees lining the roads.
The championship then heads for Rally Portugal, a flowing gravel rally, famed for its many spectators, however due to COVID-19, there will be none. Sardegna comes next, with tight twisty gravel roads and famed Mickys jump is another fan favourite.
The 7th round sees a return to Safari rally in Kenya, where the rough dirt roads and high temperatures, will make the rally a true test of endurance. Estonia features next, where Ott Tanak will aim to win his home round for the second time on the super fast gravel roads of Estonia. Round 9 sees the WRC head to Ypres, for the second all tarmac event of the year, before taking to the heavy gravel of the Acropolis Rally in Greece.
Finland returns to the calendar after a 1 year absence, moving to an autumn date, should allow fans to see the action of the aptly named "Finnish Grand Prix" due to its high speeds. The WRC then sees its final 2 rounds take to the fast open tarmac roads of Spain, before the finale around the twisty tarmac roads of Japan.
Last year saw an intense three way battle between Ogier, Evans and Neuville, that went right to the wire at the finale in Monza, we hope for more of the same this year as we enter what is one of the most exciting years the WRC could see.
2021 WRC Season Calandar (WRC)
Most events follow a standardised 3 day competition format. However the rally begins on the Tuesday before. Over Tuesday and Wednesday, drivers will complete a reconnaissance (recce) of the course. This involves the drivers and co-drivers driving through each special stage, at standard road speed limits, making meticulous pace notes that the codriver will use to guide the driver through the route when it comes to the race time. Then, on thursday, shakedown commences. This allows the drivers to perfect their setup on the car for the event, and is generally a shorter stage, which drivers can run through as many times as they want to (generally ~3). Then either on Thursday afternoon or Friday morning, the ceremonial start happens, and the rally is officially underway. On Friday begins the first special stages, where each driver will generally do 2 loops of 4 stages, with a service inbetween. During service, teams are given up to 45 minutes to complete any repairs, or setup changes to the car. If a team goes over, they will incur penalties.
Saturday follows with a similar format to Friday, however the stages are longer, and this is generally where the bulk of the rally is. Finally, Sunday arrives. Sunday generally has 2 loops of 2 stages, with no service between, but instead a regroup, where no changes can be made to the car. The final stage of the rally is known as the Power Stage. This is where the fastest driver through earns 5 extra championship points, and each driver behind gains 1 point less, up to 5th who gains 1 extra point. The stage times are then totalled, and any penalties occured during service or at time controls are added, and the shortest time to complete all special stages are the winner. Points are given down to tenth in the following order; 25, 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1.
If a driver were to crash, which is common in rallying, and was unable to continue, there car is towed back to service, where its repaired and the driver can compete under Rally2/SuperRally regulations. This means a driver will take a 10 minute penalty added to the fastest time in their category for every stage they miss, they can then rejoin the rally if their car has been suitably repaired.
Ogier's 2019 C3 WRC undergoes service (Jaanus Ree/ Red Bull Content Pool)
Currently, the WRC has 3 support categories; WRC2, WRC3 and JWRC. WRC2 and WRC3 use Rally2 (R5) cars. These cars are based on a standard production car, and use 5 speed sequential gearbox, and have 4WD. These cars have less power than WRC cars, aswell as less complex aerodynamic features, however are available at a lower cost, and are generally easier to drive. In WRC 2, the drivers compete for specific manufacturer teams, whereas WRC3 is designed for privateer drivers. Each driver must compete in 8 rounds, and at least 2 rounds must be outside Europe (however this may change as the calendar could change). In JWRC, each driver uses identical Ford Fiesta Rally4 (R2) cars. These cars are the only front wheel drive cars in the championship, and consists of 5 rounds.
R5 Ford Fiesta of Hermann Neubauer (Jaanus Ree/ Red Bull Content Pool)
How to follow
The best way to follow the WRC is using WRC All Live. This allows you to watch every stage live as it happens. Alternatively following the rally via EWRC Results, which provides in depth results, or via DirtFish twitter, which provide live updates.