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Rally GB uses WRC rule change to open door to wider variety of cars

Ari Vatanen 1981 1000 Lakes

Rally GB will be open to a greater variety of cars than ever after organisers took advantage of an FIA rule change for the 2017 World Rally Championship.

Until this year, only cars that had gone through the current, manufacturer-backed, FIA homologation process could enter WRC rounds.

That meant anything outside that bracket was only able to enter Rally GB's parallel, shorter national event.

The FIA has given rallies a chance to lift that restriction this year, which means classics such as the Ford Escort Mk II could now contest the same stages as the 2017 World Rally Cars.

FIA rally director Jarmo Mahonen said: "We want these rallies to be healthy with strong entries

"Don't forget, I am from an organiser background and I understand the difficulties for the rallies.

"This is the rule which began with allowing the national [non-homologated] cars in for rallies like Argentina, but it makes sense for all of our rallies."

The FIA retains final approval over the entry list.

It has made clear that the rule tweak's intention is to make WRC entries larger and more varied.

Though it raises the possibility of career-minded drivers entering in a previous-generation World Rally Car whose homologation - usually for five years - has expired and getting a strong overall result, any such entries are unlikely to get a favourable reception from the FIA.

Rally GB managing director Ben Taylor had first approached Mahonen about a waiver for privateers' cars last season.

"In the end we decided to wait for the rule and do it this year because it offers a huge number of benefits," he said.

"Yes, we have the National rally and that's always a fantastic event, but for the first time a driver will be able to bring, for example, an RS1800 [Ford Escort] and check his times like-for-like on every stage with Kris Meeke, Elfyn Evans and the other stars of the world championship.

"Secondly, the fans are going to get to see a wider variety of amazing rally cars in the stages this year, not once, but twice through in most cases.

"We completely understand and agree with Jarmo that these cars can't afford to interfere with the main WRC event, so it is right that the FIA has the final say, but from us the message is clear: for the first time Britain's WRC round is genuinely open to anybody and everybody and that means the full 300-kilometre or near 200 miles of competition."

Rally GB will still retain its National event, which will run as a two-day rally on the Saturday and Sunday, as a cheaper option.

It has also confirmed that its start will move from Llandudno to Towyn, for a mixed-surface spectator stage on the Thursday evening at the Tir Prince Raceway - as predicted by Autosport last week.

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