Every now and then, in talks and discussions covering the World Rally Championship (and often rallying in general), I hear complaints directed at current generation of rally cars; they are called boring, toy-like or otherwise not exciting enough. This part I do understand (to some degree) – maybe current WRC cars aren’t as wild as group B machines were, or late group A, early WRC class, etc., but neither of those can ever compare to the almighty glory of RWD GT cars, according to those critics. Nope, no matter how spectacularly fast or tight a WRC car is on twisty tarmac or sweeping gravel, nothing can beat the sound of (usually) the Porsche 911.
“This is a proper rally car, just listen to it! This is what all rally cars should be like”, they’ll say.
“What, all of them should be fidgeting around corners, feeling for grip, trying to squeeze their massive bodies around tight bends, while their engines whine as if they’re attempting a hot lap at Spa Francorchamps, even though they’re only doing around 40 kph?”, I would reply.
“But listen to them, just listen to that noise”, is usually the response I get. They will then stamp the conversation over by saying Porsches should take over the world and only the cars belonging to R-GT class should ever be allowed to compete in rallies. Because they’re fun to watch (“only the masters can drive RWD cars”, “massive sideways = fun”), they look good and, needless to say, that noise! Also, sideways, whoa, sideways beats anything.
Personally, I like hearing an angry Porsche and they do add some variety to rallies, but would I give up speed and capability of modern day WRC machines just because their engine noise cannot compare to the noise of GT cars? Never. For me, that would be too artificial and backwards, especially for cars competing at top level. If anything, I would maybe make current WRC cars even faster and stronger and I would ask more from drivers but I would never give up the idea of WRC cars being the fastest and most effective of them all. And they should, ideally, be faster and more effective when compared with previous generations too. If they can build a GT car with enough pace to challenge modern WRC and R5 cars, then I am all for it, but somehow I don’t think this is happening just yet. RWD cars should get a class of their own (check) and compete, but unless they can beat 4WD cars in a straight fight, they should never be promoted to top level.
Maybe I just haven’t been exposed to enough of that all-conquering GT engine noise? Who knows. With enough brain and right-foot power, even the small Fabia R5 (pictured) can be mighty fast. And speed, to me, is still more exciting than engine noise alone.