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The FIA Rally Pyramid for Dummies

Updated: Mar 8

The following article appears in the 2024 Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally Program. Priced at €15, the 128-Page bumper issue is full of all the information needed to enjoy the event, and are available now in the following shops;

What’s the difference between an R5 and a Rally5? Can you now get a 4WD R2 Car and call it a Rally3? Are you incredibly confused already? Good, that’s why we are here. Next weekend on the West Cork Rally, you will see a huge number of home-built cars that fall under the ‘Modified’ umbrella, but sprinkled amongst these will be factory built, FIA Homologated machines that fall within the Rally Pyramid, a tiered sequence of steps designed to get driving talent to the top of the sport. But what do these tiers look like?

RC1 - Rally1 (Former Names: WRC, WRC+)

The pinnacle of the sport, Rally1 Cars are what you will see competing in the World Rally Championship (WRC). Currently contested between Toyota Gazoo Racing, Hyundai Motorsport and M-Sport Ford, the current generation of cars are the quickest machines to ever grace a Rally stage.

Using a 1.6L Turbocharged engine mated to a Hybrid battery and all wrapped up in a spaceframe Carbon Fibre body, these things are insane, both visually and financially. You will not see one compete in West Cork this year, but these may likely be the front line machines when WRC Ireland rolls around in 2025.

Rough estimates put values at around €1m per car, so numbers competing on events is falling at present, and the FIA are working to find a solution to reinvigorate the sports premier class again.


RC2 - Rally2 (Former Names: R5, Group N)

This weekends West Cork Rally will be won by an RC2 car, and if its not I’ll eat my hat. These are the pinnacle of National level rallying not only in Ireland, but the European Rally Championship and WRC 2 which is designed to be the feeder series to the World Championship. Having emerged from the short lived S2000 era and the popular Group N days, the R5, and its latest evolution into Rally2 ,car was designed to be an attainable goal for privateers and aspiring future stars alike.

With 4WD, around 300bhp and fully developed competition suspension and engines, the Rally2 class has been a revelation with nearly 1500 competing cars produced to date by manufacturers like Skoda, Ford, Citroen, Hyundai, VW, Peugeot and most recently of all Toyota. A core to this success has been cost restrictions enforced by the FIA which mandates the use of available off-the-shelf parts in places making these easier to run and maintain to every budget.

A new Rally2 car will set you back around €300,000, but used prices and availability have seen a huge uptake in the class with many cars now competing here in Ireland right throughout the field.

RC3 – Rally3 (Former Names: N/A)

Introduced in 2021, Rally3 can be described as Rally4s with four-wheel drive.

The manufacturers can in fact reuse many components from the two-wheel drive version, such as the engine, suspension, brakes, wheels, etc. The chassis obviously has to be modified to integrate the four-wheel drive transmission tunnel and the rear pseudo McPherson suspension. However, the track and bodywork remain in their original format.

Still a relatively new class, the Ford Fiesta became the sole entrant in the market and was also the car of choice for the Junior World Rally Championship, won last year by Ireland’s William Creighton. William debuted the car on Irish shores during the 2022 West Cork Rally. In mid-2023, a Renault Clio Rally3 has launched onto the market.

Costing around €140,000, Rally3 has yet to take off quite like Rally2, but the number of cars in Ireland continues to grow.

RC4 – Rally4 (Former Names: R2, R2T, S1600)

The home of the Front-Wheel-Drive pocket rockets, and the most popular class amongst aspiring younger stars, Rally4 has absolutely boomed in popularity in recent years.

Apart from the roof hatch and openings on the bonnet, the Rally4 retains the look of a production car. Under the bonnet, however, it is a proper competition car, with a sequential gearbox and an engine tuned to develop 210 hp. From 2021, all the Rally4 cars, whatever their engine capacity, will share the same characteristics for better sporting equity: 30 mm turbo restrictor, weight set at 1,080 kg, 330 mm disk brakes and 17-inch wheels on tarmac.

The Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 208 and Opel Corsa are the most up to date Rally4 machines, but the class also incorporates a huge amount of older R2 era cars which are still incredibly competitive and good value for money. A brand new Rally4 car will retail at about €90,000, but older R2 cars can be picked up for under half of that.

RC5 – Rally5 (Former Names: R1)

At the base of the pyramid, Group Rally5 represents the ideal option for entering into rally. Additionally, these cars offer the possibility to easily move up to Rally4 machinery in the future.

The guiding principle of the Rally5 regulations is simplicity. The only components that have to be approved by the FIA are the bodyshell (homologated in Rally5 or Rally4 from 2020), the seat mountings and the harness. The other components are either from the production car (engine, brakes, etc.), or free, as long as they comply with FIA rules.

Renault and Ford are the sole makes in Rally5, but there are older R1 machines like the Citroen DS3 still available. In 2023, Jack Brennan claimed the Billy Coleman Award after a year spent in a Renault Clio Rally5, and the learnings from his year have seen him transition with ease to Rally4 in 2024.

A Rally5 machine will cost in the region of €35,000


While not competing in West Cork as they are solely sanctioned on Forest Championship events, the J1000 series is designed to be the ultimate development opportunity for young drivers to start in the sport aiming to progress up the FIA Rally Pyramid.

Available to drivers from 14-18 years of age and in home-prepared 1L cars, this is the ultimate budget friendly beginning to any drivers rallying career. The interest in the J1000 series has boomed, with events now often attracting over 20 entrants in the class. The youngsters compete over the full rally route, with an Adult navigator then driving the car on any road sections between stages.

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