Coming off of what was one of the more exciting WRC seasons in 2009, the world’s premiere rally championship is ready for launch in Sweden this weekend. Below are some of the key additions and changes for the 2010 season.
This year is the swan song for the WRC machines as the series will be switching to the S2000 modified as I like to call them. The S2000 chassis will take over with the Ford Fiesta and Citroen DS3 representing the two manufacturers in the series. Unlike the IRC, the WRC will more than likely use a 1.6 litre turbo charged powerplant. This is a step away from the 2.0 llitre turbo we have now. Either way, both Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastian Loeb have spoken very highly about their teams upcoming machines. Both squads should have the new S2000 ready to run in September of this year.
This year sees two huge names in the realm of motorsport join the world championship. Ken Block has formed the Monster World Rally team that will compete in seven races this year. The American driver will pilot an M-Sport Ford Focus as part of the team’s initiative with Ford over a global rally effort. Block, who is an internet icon for his gymkhana videos has surprised a lot of folks with the way he is approaching the upcoming season. Many thought that his Impreza launching antics would not go appreciated, but the Rally America driver explained that he is very serious about improving his trade craft as well becoming a serious driver. Ken does not expect to be competeing for wins or even podiums this year, but stresses the need to gain experience and develop proper pace notes for future events. Either way, I welcome the fact that we finally have an American driver in the WRC.
Kimi Raikkonen won the F1 world championship in 2007 by a single point over Lewis Hamilton. Since then, the Finn has performed in a few rallies while still running for Ferrari. However, at the end of this last season, Kimi decided he was bored with F1 and would join the WRC ranks. Citroen signed the Finn and were quick to place him along side of Sebastian Ogier. Ogier and Raikkonen will form the Citroen Junior team and will compete in every round of the championship minus New Zealand. The ex-Ferrari ace has brought huge media attention to himself and it is now spilling over into the rally community as a whole. Kimi has yet to finish a rally without crashing, but many people still believe that there is a recipe for success and with a little seat time, Kimi Raikkonen could become a threat for race wins in a couple years time. Either way, there should be a large impact by having both Raikkonen and Block in the fold.
Petter Solberg had a brilliant 2009 campaign using a dated Citroen Xsara for most of the season. The Norwegian driver and 2003 WRC champion formed his own team with only a couple weeks before the opening round last season. Petter proved that he could keep up with the best talent the series had to offer. His efforts garnered the attention of both Ford and Citroen and as a result Petter will run a new Citroen C4 for his team this season. The car which he will use now sports a new livery for his new primary sponsor. Mad Croc Energy Drink has come on board with Shell as primary sponsors for Petter. Thus giving Petter what he thinks he needs to again fight at the top of the WRC.
There once was a wise man that said “if the machine is not broken, then don’t fix it!” The FiA never heard that statement. It was announced that the WRC will now run off of the very same points system that Formula 1 has adopted for themselves. The major problem is that the new F1 points system was developed to accommodate more cars and promote winning. This adoption comes at a time when the WRC car count is not really growing and all of the drivers are going flat out anyways. The system awards first place a whopping 25 points and gives 20 points to the runner up and well you get the point from the F1 article. This really does not have a bearing on much of the championship, but the teams support Jean Todt and his work.
Super Rally Rules
The super rally rules that many people including myself hate, are gone this year. In previous years, if a car retired from an event they would be allowed to return to the rally but suffer a time penalty for each staged missed. That is gone. Now drivers and teams can collect a points bonus for going fastest through a leg of the event. Not 100% sure on how the new rule is going to go, but the driver who crashes and re-enters the event can still be classified the leader of the leg or day but still be missing from the overall results. Interesting rule to say the least.
We mentioned before that next year will mark the start of the S2000 era. This year however, the teams will have a chance to run traditional S2000 chassis and engine combo in a class that has already attracted high profile competition. Nasser al-Attiyah, Patrik Sandell, and Martin Prokop are just a few of the huge names in the running for the inaugural trophy. Competitors must comply with regulations and enter a certain number of events to be eligible for the championship. Cars like the M-Sport Ford Fiesta and the Skoda Fabia S2000 will be used during the championship.
These are just a few of the huge changes this year that are aimed at lowering costs along with making the sporting challenge more competitive. After last years epic title battle we are sure to see Loeb and Hirvonen fighting it out once again. It was a mere point that separated the two last year, could this finally be the year where the challenger topples the champion? Only time will tell and there are a few other drivers who may have a say so in what happens. I can’t wait. Please check your local listings for showings of the rally on Discovery HD. Also keep it here at the paddock all year long as we cover what is sure to be a hell of a fight.