Updated: Sep 5, 2020
A personal feature looking at five manufactures I would like to see enter the World Rally Championship.
The big news in the WRC last winter was that Citroen were to withdraw from the World Rally Championship, citing Sebastian Ogier’s departure as the sole reason for doing so. It got me thinking, what manufactures would I like to see return to the WRC.
Twenty years ago, there were seven manufactures competing against one another for overall honours, including the likes of Japanese giants Subaru and Mitsubishi challenging the European brands such as Skoda, Peugeot and Seat.
As the years went by, the amount of manufacture involvemtn in the WRC started to dwindle, with brands leaving either due to a lack of competitiveness or because of the 2008 financial crises which left manufactures around the world saving every penny they could.
Currently in the WRC there are three manufactures, Ford, Toyota and Hyundai and although these three manufactures have committed to the series and have provided great competition, one aspect which is missing is the diversity the previous decades had, with multiple teams able to fight it out at the top.
Since the current rules are focused on teams being manufacture backed, I thought I would look at five manufactures I would like to see on the WRC grid. I have also tried to look at Manufactures who would fit the current RC1 car regulations with regards to car size. As well as looking at the regulations, I have looked at teams which have a rallying pedigree but also manufactures which may benefit from the exposure the WRC brings.
The first manufacture I feel it would be fantastic to see back in the WRC is Mitsubishi, who dominated the sport in the late nineties with Tommi Makinen. The Japanese manufacture won four consecutive titles with the Finn from 1996 to 1999 and also gave Britain’s Richard Burns his first WRC win in 1998.
However, the turn of the millennium proved to the beginning of Mitsubishi’s WRC decline as the team struggled in 2000 up against the more nimble Peugeot 206. By 2005 the manufacture had withdrawn from the WRC following the new Lancer’s unsuccessful debut in the championship.
Since Group R regulations were introduced, there has been the beginnings of a Mitsubishi resurgence in the lower categories which makes me optimistic a Mitsubishi return to the WRC would be successful.
It has also been rumoured that they are planning on returning to the sport in 2021 with the Mirage World Rally Car, one year before the new hybrid rules are due to be introduced. Let’s hope that these reports are reliable and we do see Mitsubishi make a welcome return.
The second manufacture I am going to look at is Volkswagen which has slowly started to make an impact on the WRC2 scene after leaving the sport at the end of the 2016 season.
Volkswagen initially started development on their Polo R WRC car in 2011, having signed Sebastian Ogier from Citroen to spearhead their testing program, prior to making its competition debut in 2013.
After two years of development, once the car hit the road it was dominant, with Ogier winning the 2013 title and indeed every following championship VW entered.
VW’s withdrawal came as a shock and left their drivers without seats for the 2017 season, when the WRC introduced updated regulations to make the cars faster by giving them greater aerodynamic freedom resulting in spectacular looking cars.
The sole reason behind the shock of VW’s withdrawal was because a Volkswagen Polo R in 2017 specifications was fully homologated and had passed all the required tests to ensure it was ready for the season. Independent teams lobbied to use the three cars they had produced however the four current manufactures blocked the proposals, and so the cars remained untouched.
It would have been fantastic to see the might of VW truly tested against the likes of Hyundai and Toyota who have both improved dramatically since the German’s withdrawal.
The third manufacture I would like to return to the World Rally Championship is probably the most ambitious as Peugeot have already stated on record they have no intention of returning to the WRC.
This is due to sister manufacture Citroen having previous involvement in the sport however this does not stop me dreaming of a Peugeot return as it would be great to see a manufacture with such history return to the WRC.
Peugeot’s history in the WRC dates back to 1984, when Peugeot debuted their Group B 205 Turbo 16 in 1984 and took their first victory in Finland with Ari Vatanen. A year later they won the WRC with Timo Salonen, winning the championship again the following year with Juha Kankkunen, the team run by former Ferrari Team Principal Jean Todt.
After leaving the WRC in at the conclusion of the Group B regulations in 1986, Peugeot returned to the WRC as a manufacture in 1999 before their first full season back in 2000, in which they won with Marcus Gronholm. Gronholm won again in 2002 before Peugeot left the WRC for good at the end of 2005.
With regards to which car I feel they should use, Peugeot are already using the 208 in the European Rally Championship, a relative to their early noughties 206. It would be fantastic to see the French manufacture back at the top of World Rally.
The next manufacture I am going to look at is a firm which, to my knowledge at least, has not competed in the WRC. Honda are synonymous with motorsport having competed in championships on both two and four wheels around the world however to see them in the WRC would be fantastic.
I feel it would be of benefit for Honda to consider such a step due to the radical differences the WRC has to any other form of motorsport they are currently competing in, such as Formula 1 and the British Touring Car Championship.
It would also be great to see another Japanese manufacture rival Toyota, since the two have battled for decades across multiple categories.
In terms of which car Honda should consider for their WRC assault, I feel they should consider the Honda e. The FIA have spoken how they intend the WRC to go hybrid to encourage manufacture interest and move with the times and a new manufacture with a new electric car would be perfect.
The final manufacture I am going to look in detail at is another brand that has never entered the WRC. Kia are a brand which are on the up, their cars are smart and have won awards across the board for their quality and the warranties they offer.
What better way to promote this than in the most rugged varied motorsport out there?
In addition to this, I feel that Kia have two cars on sale at the moment which could be homologated to the current WRC regulations, the Picanto and the Rio. Kia currently do not have a motorsport presence at it would be great to see the brand on the world stage fighting it out against the best and most experienced manufactures in the world.
Other manufactures that deserve a mention include:
That’s it! If you can think of any other manufactures you would like to see back in the World Rally Championship please leave a comment!
Pictures: en.wheelsage.org, www.wrc.com, www.autocar.co.uk, www.carenthusiast.com, www.whichcar.com