What is WRC2Pro?
WRC2Pro was a new WRC support championship for manufacturers of R5 specification rally cars that only ran in 2019. Privateer drivers and teams could not enter individually although there were driver and co-driver championships within WRC2Pro. Conversely only drivers and co-drivers (or teams), not manufacturers could enter WRC2 at the time. Therefore there was no manufacturer championship within WRC2.
Three manufacturers fielded cars:
- M-Sport Ford
Why Was WRC2Pro Introduced?
To Sell Rally Cars
The first advantage to WRC2Pro was to create a genuine and fair competition for the manufacturers. They could only enter a maximum 2 drivers per WRC round. Hyundai, Citroen and Volkswagen were all accelerating their R5 sales and customer programs with Proton and Toyota planning to enter the market too. Competition in the R5 sales market was growing and the championship would have helped to promote and sell each manufacturer’s R5 rally car. Potential customers include privateer entrants in WRC2 as well as national and regional championships worldwide.
To make WRC2 fair and encourage entries
The second benefit to having a WRC2Pro championship is it makes WRC2 more attractive to privateer driver and team entrants. In the preceeding years WRC2 had been dominated by two manufacturers, Skoda Motorsport and M-Sport, although much of the entry field are private drivers. Naturally many private entrants cannot compete with the resources of a manufacturer. Therefore moving them to their own series should encourage more participation in WRC2 with a better chance of a true privateer winning. Rallying has always encouraged and embraced drivers of all commitment and budget even if a driver only enters their home event in a hired car. The separation of WRC2Pro helped to encourage all ends of the market.
To Develop Talent
A side effect to having the WRC2Pro championship is the opportunity for season long programs for young drivers. For 2019 M-Sport have given seats to Gus Greensmith and Lukasz Pieniazek whilst Skoda have kept Kalle Rovanpera. It may be true these would have been their drivers in WRC2 anyhow but if all 6 manufacturers had 2 cars at every rally there would be plenty of opportunity. In the WRC2Pro drivers championship only the best 6 results count so there would likely be more than 2 drivers if the manufacturer did all events. It is not transparent what the commercial agreements between drivers and manufacturers are now but it is a possibility for the future.
The Problems With WRC2Pro
Uptake by the manufacturers was slow in the opening three rounds of 2019. Hyundai and Volkswagen did not ente at all. Citroen only entered one car into some events. In Sweden their car won the rally but M-Sport won more points because their two cars finished 2nd and 3rd. In Mexico M-Sport just had to finish with their one car to score 25 points. Manufacturers must enter a minimum of 7 rounds, one of which must be outside of Europe. It is early days for the championship and it’ll be interesting to see how the series grows.
Another source of confusion is what makes a manufacturer entry. It appears Skoda had entered the running of one of it’s cars in Sweden via a third party team. Essentially this is the same as nominating a driver from WRC2. We need clarification on what exactly a manufacturer entrant is and what the commercial agreement limits are. Also, if a manufacturer is to pay to enter a customer does that mean they would they be losing a sale?
Why Did WRC2Pro End?
For 2020 WRC2Pro would become WRC2, and the privateer class WRC2 would become WRC3. It is planned by the FIA that this would align with the level of rally cars and talent level in a simple to understand ‘pyramid’ as used in F1. This is the official line, although complaints about confusion around who was driving in which WRC2 probably helped scrap the name.
Who Are The WRC2Pro Champions?
Kalle Rovanpera and Jonne Haltunnen won the driver’s and co-driver’s championships in their Skoda Fabia R5. Skoda Motorsport also won the manufacturers championship but in truth were the most committed. With the axe of the name, technically they will be the reigning champions forever more.