In the final part of our series celebrating 30 years since Group B, rallying’s wildest era, we’re taking a look at the cars of the 2017.
The new technical regulations to be introduced in 2017 will result in the fastest World Rally Cars in history, and by quite a substantial margin.
In an attempt to make the cars more spectacular, the FIA has increased the engine restrictor size from 34mm to 36mm, which is expected to lift power outputs from the current 230kW to around 280kW.
Minimum weight will decrease by 25kg, the bodywork can be 55mm wider with greater front and rear overhangs, there is much greater aerodynamic freedom and active centre differentials are once again allowed.
The teams are tight-lipped, but it’s been suggested that this new breed of WRC cars will be up to two seconds/km quicker than the current machines, which equates to 10 minutes (!) over the 300km of competitive stages that constitute most modern rallies.
Here’s who’ll be fighting it out for WRC honours in 2017.
Volkswagen Polo WRC
The reigning world champions were first to start testing a 2017 car and have undergone an incredibly extensive program, with former world champion Marcus Gronholm handling much of the early development work.
What effect team boss Jost Capito’s departure will have remains to be seen, but VW still has the biggest budget and the world’s best rally driver in Sebastien Ogier, so has to start the year as the favourite.
Citroen C3 WRC
Citroen has ditched its World Touring Car Championship program to once again concentrate on rallying. One of the sport’s most successful marques, Citroen has taken a sabbatical in 2016 to fully focus its effort on creating the ultimate 2017 car.
It’s an odd-looking machine, the new C3 looking almost SUV-like, but with Kris Meeke as the lead driver Citroen is likely to be VW’s closest challenger. The second seat is yet to be filled, with current Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville linked to the seat.
Hyundai i20 WRC
Hyundai introduced an all-new car for 2016 just for one year, and the need to develop it slightly delayed work on the 2017 machine. This has now begun in earnest, and the all-new i20 looks like a proper weapon.
Kiwi star Hayden Paddon will be joined by Spanish veteran Dani Sordo, but they’ll have their work cut out for them keeping up with Meeke and Ogier. Likely to regularly feature in the top five with regular podium appearances, though.
Toyota Yaris WRC
It’s been almost 20 years since a Toyota graced the world’s rally stages, but 2017 will very much be a learning year for the Japanese giant. The car looks and sounds good, with team boss Tommi Makinen handling much of the early development work.
There are still question marks about the Toyota operation, with the technical director recently leaving and still no drivers confirmed for next year. Still, it’s a huge boost to the championship and come 2018 it’ll be all guns blazing.
Ford Fiesta WRC
As the only ‘manufacturer’ without full manufacturer support, M-Sport is in a spot of bother. It’s started testing extremely late, partly because the 2017 Fiesta will be a new model and cannot appear in public for a little while yet.
M-Sport make money by selling rally cars, but with the FIA restricting which drivers can drive these new rocketships, it’s currently unclear how much of an effect these new rules will have on its business model.
Still, M-Sport has been building rally cars for a very long time, so it would be unwise to write it off.