The ‘Rally car of the future’ for the Asia Pacific region and all the associated National rally championships is currently being discussed with two possible options on the table at present. The options are not too far apart, but one the ‘Maxi concept’ is already regionally homologated and the basis of the South American Rally championship. This article by Martin Holmes of ‘Motorsport Monday’ provides a great insight to the Maxi Rally formula and how it works.
The Maxi Rally concept came about when the available supply of competitive cars in Argentina for use in national rallying became centred exclusively on Mitsubishi and Subaru cars, offering little variety and no incentive for participation by the local manufacturers. The new Maxi Rally formula encouraged the local motor industry to produce cars which carried their corporate name, but took advantage of available power trains and immediately became attractive.
The main feature of the formula was the controlled engine design, which the local specialist company Oreste Berta, based at Alta Gracia in Cordoba province, was commissioned to develop and supply. In the absence of available power units of 2-litre normally-aspirated design, a purpose designed engine capable of achieving performance equivalence with the existing “Group” based cars was required. The base engine was the aluminium block Honda Integra, prepared in 2370cc form, with wet sump. Long reliable engine life was the main design objective, and extensive use was made of under-stressed components.
The engine remained normally-aspirated, and as supplied to teams it produced a healthy 285bhp. The standard four-wheel-drive, six-speed sequential transmission systems are based on Subaru components, which the national Barattero company supply, and the whole package is sold to teams as a kit including the engine, gearbox, shock absorbers, brakes and all. All that’s required is a body shell and abera cadabera, you have a competitive rally car! With the kit, individual car preparation companies could then prepare their competition cars based on what model of production car they chose, so long it was recognisable as a model in the B-sector market.
The first Maxi Rally car, based on the locally marketed Volkswagen Golf Trend production car, was built by the Barattero company at Almafuerte during the 2010 season, and from start of the 2011 season there were silhouette style cars on the start line in the guise of Volkswagen, Kia Rio and Fiat Punto cars. The formula was alive. The first event in which Maxi Rally cars were admitted was the Rally San Antonio de Areco, run in the flatlands of Buenos Aires province in muddy conditions, where Juan Marchetto’s traditional turbocharged Mitsubishi was unbeatable but on only the second round (Rally Villa Dolores in Cordoba province) the new Fiat Punto Maxi Rally of Claudio Menzi was the winner.
By the end of the first season no fewer than twenty Maxi Rally examples, representing one make or another appeared in competition. Three companies were involved in Maxi Rally car construction at the outset Barattero, Federico Villagra’s company VRS which constructed Ford Fiestas and Marcos Ligato’s company Tango Rally Team which produced a Chevrolet Agile version. Since then a wide variety of designs have emerged. Last year the Peruvian driver Nicolas Fuchs presented a special car which in reality was a VW on which Mitsubishi badges were applied. Also appearing at Rally Argentina were Maxi Rally versions of the Peugeot 207 and 208, a Fiat Palio and a Citroën DS3.
Phase two of the Maxi Rally project started in 2013 with the Junior project using two-wheeldrive six-speed transmission and 190bhp engine, using similar design principles to the Maxi Rally cars. Seven of these Junior cars also appeared at Rally Argentina, cars constructed as Fiat Palio, Ford Fiesta, VW Gol and Ford Ka cars while there are also projects using Chevrolet and Renault Clio cars.
Meanwhile the FIA in 2012 allowed Maxi Rally cars to be regionally homologated, which permitted these cars to be available for use in the Codasur championship. Fast forward to Rally Argentina, when the national rally championship cars ran in the same stages as the WRC event, and when the current Maxi Rally cars include Citroën, Ford and VW cars, three of the four marques which are officially entered on the WRC series. A spokesman for the national series said “yes, the most interesting aspect for us at Rally Argentina was seeing just how the Maxi Rally cars performed compared with the RRC, the R5 and the Super 2000 cars entered in the full WRC event”.