The FIA World Motor Sport Council turned the rallying world on its head on Wednesday. Rather than committing to the Super 2000 formula for 2.0-liter naturally aspirated cars with strict controls on the technology to limit costs--which was the plan in March--the FIA has decided that the World Rally Championship will launch an all-new, 1.6-liter turbocharged formula in 2011.
The FIA said the change would bring the WRC "in line with the engine used in the cars on sale to the public."
There currently is only one 1.6-liter turbocharged engine in use in rallying, fitted to a Group R Peugeot 207 in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge. Meanwhile, 10 manufacturers have built Super 2000 cars, competing in both the Production World Rally Championship and the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
In March, FIA president Max Mosley appeared to endorse the Super 2000 decision.
"The only manufacturers coming in are those with a Super 2000 car," he said. "Fortunately, there are quite a number of these. That's one of the reasons why it's important to have this as the main category of WRC."
It's not apparent what changed since then, although it is understood that harmonizing the engines for the WRC and the World Touring Car Championship is a factor. Sources close to the FIA also suggest that Volkswagen is keen to join the sport, but only if small-capacity turbocharged engines are adopted.
Meanwhile, in an effort to try and bolster the number of competitors in WRC events throughout the season, the Super 2000 formula will be retained in a standalone "WRC Cup" category, alongside the main championship and its supporting Production WRC and Junior WRC classes. Manufacturers and teams with Super 2000 machinery must decide whether to compete for class victories in the WRC or outright victories on the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
WRC event organizers have been granted much greater flexibility in planning their rounds of the World Rally Championship beginning in 2010.
With the return of International Sportsworld Communicators as the series promoter--which presided over the sport's most popular era of 1999-2003--more effort is being put into promoting each round of the series to fans and to increase TV viewership worldwide.
Among the changes, rallies may be run over two, three or four days but must finish on a Saturday or Sunday. To increase the spectacle, there will be freedom to mix asphalt and gravel surfaces either within a stage or within the itinerary of a day.