Opinion: AP4 has a role to play in WRC’s future – and in NZ getting a calendar spot


The news this week from Autosport that New Zealand may not be making an appearance on the WRC calendar for the next few years is gutting for us in the Southern Hemisphere.  They have the cars, the fans and this side of the world deserves to have more rallies.

The AP4 cars, like Eli Evans’ new Mini is a crowd pleaser and this could be a better alternative for a ladder system and allow for regional variances in 4WD cars

It comes off the back of a wish for the WRC to have a more comprehensive ladder system to the WRC – 2WD in national categories, R5 in regional championships and WRC in, well the WRC.

The difficulty the WRC has in long-haul events and the ladder system are, perhaps not as distinct as they may seem.

If you missed Colin Clark’s excellent From the Kitchen table podcast this week on the subject – it is worth listening to.

The current WRC promoters have done an excellent job over the past few years to rebuild the sport after the years of wasted time under NOS. The sport has struggled to make money but with the WRC+ initiative, the new cars and other behind the scenes initiatives, they have made great progress.

But there are some things they have struggled with – and that has been on display in the fly-away rounds. That is the absolute lack of ladder entry cars and the lack of opportunity outside manufacturer entries.

The WRC can only care about the registered entries for their events and when you have record lows, you have issues.

Production Class still has a huge following in club level and even up to regional level rallying. They used to bring a lot of entries into rallying in its heyday. Now this affordable class has no place in the WRC. CLARKE ‐ PRESTON
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo

The need for a ladder system – incorporating the R3, R5 system as we have is partially to blame.

The Maxi cars of Argentina and the AP4 cars of Australia and New Zealand are ineligible.  There is no marketplace for them here and as such no one can enter.

There is no makertplace, no one brings in new cars, so older cars don’t get sold down the line.

Equally, what we have, the WRC doesn’t want.

It all comes down to price and that is something that is a little outrageous in today’s society.

The R5 cars are cheaper than the previous generation S2000 cars. But then the AP4 cars are cheaper again – and this is where they R5 pricepoint should be. Equally, the national class AP4 cars should be at the price of the old Production/Group N cars were.

If we cast our minds back, when these cars were being run as a Championship class, there were big fields across the world – plenty of national class cars to enter. They were cheap(er), the marketplace was global and there seemed to be fewer barriers to getting into the WRC.

This brings us to another point – 2WD cars have no business being held in high esteem in national rallying – yes they are fun but no national championship from Australia to the UK has flourished with a 2WD focus. No relevant prestigious prize or career part. So why do we continue to bandwagon.

What would be more relevant would be to create a Production replacement. And that would be the AP4/R4/Maxi cars. Introducing cost controls and a balance of performance across these types of cars (that almost all exist) and introduce that as a ladder system for national championships – or selected national championships, with a step to R5 could be a solution.

2WD as a main category has proven expensive and disastrous for national championships – and has low numbers in the WRC3 field.
International Rally of Queensland, 2015

Equally it could make a better global alternative for WRC3.

This solution would allow local variances while still being WRC complaint for when those rallies come to town. It could create a greater market place and it could ensure that the WRC Promoter gets more entries at long-haul events.

The national championships get better cars, the drivers have a cheaper path to 4WD rallying and the fans get a better spectacle.

And New Zealand can join Australia in the WRC.

Easy, right?

R5s are expensive and have not caught on in the non-European series and this could be holding back WRC events outside of Europe
Skoda Fabia R5

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By Sam Tickell, August 2017

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