Why WRC3 sometimes beats WRC2

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Of the five rallies run so far in 2020, four have had a Rally2 class winner from WRC3 and not WRC2 as may be expected. Some spectators may comment therefore that the drivers from the lower tier WRC3 are better.

That could be the case but I’d like to present these two notions to argue otherwise, with more conviction on the first than the second.

  • They’re not racing each other.
  • The approach, intent and expected return on investment may be more ‘professional’ in WRC2.

Absorb these numbers that don’t really require deeper research (which of course contributes and could be done). For each event, here is the Rally2 podium with the finish/entrant rate and the gap between 1st and 2nd in each category.

Rally2 Podiums 2020

Monte Carlo

Rally2 Podium:

  1. WRC3
  2. WRC2 +39.6s
  3. WRC3 +1:21.8

WRC2 – Finishers 4/5 80% – Gap between 1st-2nd +3:31.4

WRC3 – Finishers 9/13 69% – Gap between 1st-2nd +1:21.8

Sweden

  1. WRC3
  2. WRC3 +5s
  3. WRC2 +7s

WRC2 – 6/6 100% – Gap between 1st-2nd +23.4s

WRC3 – 9/10 90% – Gap between 1st-2nd +5s

Mexico

  1. WRC2
  2. WRC2 +1:57.7
  3. WRC3 +3:08.2

WRC2 – 3/3 100% – +1:57.7

WRC3 – 5/10 50% – 1-2 +4:11.1

Estonia

  1. WRC3
  2. WRC2 +38.7
  3. WRC3 +59.0

WRC2 – 5/6 83% – +1:28.4

WRC3 – 18/22 81% – +59s

Turkey

  1. WRC3
  2. WRC2 +24.2
  3. WRC2 +2:07.1

WRC2 – 3/3 100% – +1:42.9

WRC3 – 8/10 80% – +2:10.9

Category over Class

WRC2

If you paid someone to compete in your car and you paid all the costs of the support team you’d expect them to finish and deliver your expected reward. That’s what WRC2 is, a championship for manufacturers.

So, the manufacturers championship comes first with the drivers championship secondary entertainment. Two events this year only had 3 entrants meaning driving like your nan would have guaranteed spraying champagne. Just finishing means championship points on all events. Non-finishes are not acceptable.

Although there’s no evidence in the above data, team orders can also come in to play when there is a team mate and team boss.

WRC3

If you paid for yourself to drive you’d want to bloody enjoy it and beat everybody, call me out if you disagree! Most drivers in WRC3 won’t be doing all rallies in the championship. Therefore the prize for a rally win is likely to be more important to a WRC3 driver than the championship points.

Stage Pace and Risk

The entry numbers in WRC3 are always a lot higher than WRC2, meaning pushing the limit from the get-go is more likely. This may be apparent in the higher retirement rate in comparison to WRC2. Note the only round where WRC2 won the Rally2 battle, Mexico, had the fewest finishing in WRC3. Also note that Mexico and Turkey had the biggest gulfs in finishing rates between the two categories. These two rounds are where pushing hard mostly punishes.

Finally, and most tellingly from this info alone, the gap between 1st and 2nd in the final classifications is usually larger in WRC2 than WRC3. The bigger gap means less risk needs to be introduced with limit-pushing, especially as a rally nears it’s conclusion.

Confusion Conclusion

To answer the title question in short – privateers push harder and possibly more irresponsibly.

It’s my belief WRC3 will head in the direction of using the Rally3 car once more vehicles have been homologated. This has not been confirmed by the FIA but it is logical and, again IMO, better for the spectator.

Because if WRC2 was open to the privateer once WRC3 went to Rally3 than we would have two classes of privateers pushing themselves and pushing the manufacturer competition. Great!

Digression to that Argument

World Rallying may be heading into times of financial difficulty. Some call for one class of car for ALL competitors. But would there be the same level of private participants once their field goes to forty, fifty cars? Would they really pay to compete with the likes of Sebastien Ogier, Ott Tanak and Thierry Neuville and then finish 18th in class instead of winning? All while fans are expected to pay to watch 40,50,60 identical cars live? I don’t think so. There would still be a need for tiers of talent and intent where this confusion could continue.

Besides, the budget privateer doesn’t want to take on the mighty manufacturers on an equal footing. It’s why we have WRC3, modified out of what was WRC2 and WRC2Pro in 2019. It’s only a side effect that splitting the field made it more likely one or two privateers could beat the big boys. The likelihood of a Rally2 class winner from WRC3 is currently running at 4/5 or 80%.

Or they could just be better drivers.


Feature photograph taken by Flickr user Kyn Wai Chung used under licence. Please contact me if you agree, disagree or you have another comment to make regarding this post. Find me on twitter @PushingPace. Rating this post with the thumbs below is free, anonymous and the most fun you can legally have with a finger these days.

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