Turbo era comes to an end in WRC

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Ever since the Audi Quattro brought turbocharging and 4WD to the World Rally Championship in 1981, that combination has dominated the sport. The World Rally Car was introduced in 1997 but it was soon clear that uncontrolled development, with expensive electronic and hydraulic devices that practically drove the car, was making everything very costly. Thirty years ago a winning rally car might have cost £70,000, but the going rate for a WR Car in the 21st century is in excess of £500,000.

With fewer car makes prepared to invest in the WRC, the FIA decided two years ago to introduce a new car that would be cheaper to develop and run. The initial concept was to have a Super 2000 car to which a turbocharger ‘kit’ could be added. But in the face of the current recession even this looked a bit exotic so, at a WRC Commission meeting on February 19, the proposal was reduced to S2000 cars with removable aerodynamic additions – to distinguish between the breeds – to be run with no turbocharger. This plan was accepted at a World Motor Sport Council meeting on March 17.

What it means is that for 2010, both current WR Cars and the modified S2000s can score points but, from 2011, the old turbocharged WR Cars will no longer be eligible. Indeed, it is not yet known whether the current breed of turbocharged Group N cars will be allowed, since they have 4WD and more power than the normally aspirated 2-litre unit of an S2000.

It has been suggested that from 2013 the S2000/WR Car powerplant should become a turbocharged 1.6-litre unit, but it remains to be seen how many manufacturers will want to run new cars for two years before having to develop new engines. Perhaps, as in F1, the day of the turbo is past. John Davenport

*****

Kris Meeke took his first ever Intercontinental Rally Challenge win at Curitiba, Brazil driving a Peugeot UK-entered 207 S2000. The Northern Irishman led from the start, winning all seven stages on day one. He stayed ahead to beat Nicolas Vouilloz by 26.2 seconds.

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