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11 Feb 2014

WRX: Return of the GT cars?

Category: ERC, News Posted 11.02.14 12:30 by

FIA has approved outline plans to create a new support two-wheel drive category for the World Rallycross Championship, being open to Grand Touring (GT) cars as well.

 

About half a year ago rumours were spread by people close to several ASNs that the TouringCars category would be living on borrowed time and would disappear soon. In September of 2013 RallycrossRX promoter IMG made a clear statement to the advantage of the rear-wheel drive cars. Now it seems as if TouringCar will be here to stay, but is going to lose its independence after 2014. The same will happen to Super1600. Yesterday plans have been revealed to create one new comprehensive support class for WorldRX, bringing together as many as possible two-wheel drive machinery. It looks as if the drivers of the front-wheel drive Super1600s and the rear-wheel drive TouringCars could race together from 2015 on, and that the new Rallycross category in the making will also be open to GT cars. RallycrossRX.com: “The core idea is to create a two-wheel drive category that draws on the best of Rallycross traditions, embraces modern thinking and protects the value of existing machinery. […] The intention is to create a class that’s open to the widest possible group of cars and drivers, and to reinvigorate two-wheel drive racing at the international level.”

Grand Touring cars had their Rallycross heyday in 1976 and 1977, when FIA/FISA had just adopted the young sport and started to rule the early European championships. Two Austrians claimed the first two fully recognised Euro titles, Franz Wurz with his Lancia Stratos HF in 1976 and Herbert Grünsteidl with his Alpine A310 V6 in 1977. From 1978 on the ERC run two different car classes, Touring Cars and GT cars. With the result, that the GT category became less important, its starting fields often too small for to claim full points [if less than 15 starters took part in an ERC round only half championship points were awarded].

When in 1982 the ERC was opened to four-wheel drive cars Rallycross saw also a renaissance for GT cars. In the years to follow many drivers of cars such as Porsche 911s, Alpine A310s, Talbot Matra Murenas and Lotus Esprits competed in ERC rounds, most of them cars converted to amazing 4WD machinery. When at the end of 1992 the famous Group B cars were also banned from the European Rallycross venues, the GT cars had to leave as well. They all had to make space for a new breed of ‘Rallycross Specials’ [nowadays’ SuperCars], based on cars homologated in Group A. Over the last two decades not much has been changed here, apart from opening the major Rallycross category for Supertouring cars too, closing it for World Rally Cars and Kit Cars, and the creating of a ‘List of cars not homologated with the FIA, but eligible in SuperCars, Super1600s and TouringCars’. A list that allows the use of cars such as the Audi A1 and S3, the Saab 9-3 SS, the VW Scirocco Mk3 and some others.

 

Photo: Porsche 911s, here the one of Swede Rolf Nilsson pictured in 1984, were the favourite GT cars in Rallycross. © EL/ERC24