Neuville: New WRC points system will add excitement and strategy

Thierry Neuville says the World Rally Championship’s new-for-2024 points system will add excitement and strategy but reckons it will benefit drivers with advantageous road order positions.

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

The FIA has ratified a new points system designed to add extra spice to rallies this season, with points awarded on Saturday and Sunday during an event. 

Under the new system, a sliding scale of 18-15-13-10-8-6-4-3-2-1 points will be awarded at the end of Saturday, but only if a crew reaches Sunday’s final classification. If a crew fails to finish on Sunday, the Saturday points will be awarded to the next best-placed pairing.

Competitors will also do battle for a maximum of seven points on Sunday. Points will be awarded to the top seven competitors via the following sliding scale; 7-6-5-4-3-2-1. The prime reason for its introduction is to prevent drivers from cruising through Sunday's stages preserving tyres for the end-of-rally Power Stage, which remains unchanged with the top five fastest drivers receiving bonus points, five the maximum.

If a driver completes a perfect rally they will continue to score 30 points as per the previous regulations, but there is now a scenario where the eventual outright winner of the rally could suffer a problem on Sunday and therefore leave the event with fewer points than their rivals.

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Hyundai driver Neuville believes the new points structure will present a new challenge and has resolved the issue of drivers cruising through Sunday stages. But the Belgian also feels the system could benefit part-time drivers with an advantageous road order at the start of events.

“It is going to add more excitement and a bit of strategy as well,” Neuville told Motorsport.com.

“But for sure the drivers that are going to start with a good road position are going to be securing already a big amount of points on the Saturday night, so for those with a bad starting position you need minimum Saturday and Sunday to catch back some time, and this will not be possible anymore.

Thierry Neuville, Hyundai World Rally Team

Photo by: Vincent Thuillier / Hyundai Motorsport

Thierry Neuville, Hyundai World Rally Team

“Basically, you start first on Friday, and on Saturday if you have a bit better road position you will have to try and get back some time on one day only to secure more points, so it is going to be challenging.

“On Saturday you cannot just say I’m first with a 20-second gap and manage my Sunday it is no longer possible. The problem of the Sunday morning will be solved.

“At the end, the winner will be the one who is on the podium. I'm just not sure if you can be that happy about a win if you take home less points.”

Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul has been among those pushing for change in the WRC and has praised the move to adopt a new points system. However, the former Renault Formula 1 boss admitted the points structure is more complex than what he’d originally anticipated.

“I think the feeling is one of satisfaction to see that something has changed,” Abiteboul told Motorsport.com.

“We cannot be complaining and banging on the door of the FIA with proposals to improve the dynamic of the sport, and when there is change, we start to see all of the negativity.

“We have been brainstorming with other teams and the FIA and we came up with a proposal to split the weekend into two parts. There is for sure a level of complexity having gone through the Promoter, the FIA and the WRC Commission and it is a bit more complex than initially designed. But as long as it still achieves the effect of making Sunday more exciting than what is has been, I will be a happy man.

Cyril Abiteboul, Team principal Hyundai World Rally Team

Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport

Cyril Abiteboul, Team principal Hyundai World Rally Team

“Let’s see how the WRC community can take advantage of this opportunity to tell a new story which hopefully can be a positive effect in capturing a new type of fan. We need the casual fan that Formula 1 has been capable of capturing by testing new things like this.”

Abiteboul does share Neuville’s concerns regarding the possible advantage that could be afforded to part-time drivers. He is also worried that the current tyre allocation could see teams run out of rubber before Sunday meaning that drivers could still be forced to preserve tyres.

Abiteboul has requested a discussion with the FIA over these matters. The FIA did reveal in its rally newsletter last year that “the points system will be reviewed and monitored over the course of the upcoming season to allow for adjustments wherever necessary.”

“There are a few things that probably need to be looked into and taken into consideration. For example, the road orders need to be considered, in particular, this year with the situation we have in the championship, and also tyre allocation,” Abiteboul added.

“But it is important we don’t have any kneejerk reaction about an attempt from the sport to improve one of its weaknesses.”

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