Wrc: presented the hybrid Rally1s. The pilots: “A lot of power, a hard-fought World Championship”

The cars with which Hyundai, Toyota and Ford M-Sport will tackle the 2022 season, the beginning of a new era and 50th edition of the World Rally Championship, revealed on Red Bull TV

Matteo Solinghi


Just like in Formula 1, 2022 is also the year that marks the change of regulations in the WRC. But if the hybrid era for open-wheel single-seaters began in the now distant 2014, the cars of the World Rally embrace today, on the occasion of the 50th edition of the World Rally Championship, the new technology, for an increasingly sustainable future. This and many other topics of the day on the occasion of the official presentation of the cars themselves on Red Bull TV live from Hangar 7 in Salzburg, with the World Championship starting on Thursday 20 January with the classic Monte Carlo Rally and related tests. special, typically snowy and icy, in the south of France.

Wrc: the hybrid era

Winter saw Toyota Gazoo Racing, Hyundai Motorsport and Ford M-Sport work hard to develop the cars. A fight against time to bring technical solutions and make cars available to drivers that are performing on all funds and safe at the same time. The power unit consists of a 100 kW electric motor coupled to a 3.9 kWh battery which completes a 1.6 liter turbo petrol engine. The package increases peak performance levels to more than 500hp while reducing harmful emissions. The Rally 1 cars with plug-in hybrid propulsion, weighing 1,260 kg (70 more than the previous Wrc Plus), have in fact been designed around an updated chassis with safety cells, with 100% fossil-free fuel. and the supply of sustainable energy. The operation of the electric unit is relatively simple: when braking, power is regenerated, which can then be used during acceleration. But the road is not the track and the rallies are not the circuit races, which is why in an incalculable number of cases the rally drivers find themselves using the brake and the accelerator at the same time, without clear distinction such as, for example, when arriving in corners. 1 in Monza where you take your foot off the accelerator and brake hard. It will be very interesting to understand what will be the best strategy to obtain maximum performance by exploiting the hybrid power unit and also taking this factor into account. In addition, the gearbox will be a five-speed sequential without steering wheel pad (on Wrc Plus it was a six-speed sequential with steering wheel pad). The drivers will therefore have to remove their right hand from the steering wheel to engage the gears. An additional challenge, for a driving style – in this respect – more similar to that of the R5 than that of the Wrc Plus.

Ford M-Sport: the return of Loeb

“The cannibal” is back. Sebastien Loeb, fresh from a Dakar finished in second place behind Nasser Al Attiyah, makes his return to the World Rally as driver of Malcolm Wilson’s Ford M-Sport, which between 2021 and 2022 abandoned the Fiesta, in business since 2011, replacing it with Puma. Loeb’s role is strategic: to develop the car and help the young talents of the team to grow. Among these is Craig Breen, the protagonist of an accident during the “pre-Monte” tests in the middle of the week that forced the M-Sport mechanics to work until 3 am to allow Gus Greensmith to carry out the day of testing for him. dedicated the next day. “The incident was an unexpected event that wasn’t there, but it didn’t affect my level of confidence,” says Breen. “I don’t feel the pressure of having to deal with a parterre of riders like the one at the start of the new season – says Greensmith -, I just focus on myself. The car on asphalt is truly incredible, I got confidence from the first test. This year we are all starting from a blank sheet and we think we are very close to Toyota and Hyundai in terms of performance. And yes, there is a lot of difference compared to a Wrc Plus ”. Words confirmed by Adrien Formaux: “It will be a very tight battle. My personal target is to get on the podium. During the tests I spoke to Loeb: we have very similar feelings and this pleases me because it means that I am working in the right direction. He was my idol as a child and now I find myself confronting the most successful rider in the history of this sport ”.

Toyota: Ogier part time

A sick Sebastien Ogier had to give up participating in the inaugural appointment of the new season. And it is not a small absence, since the champion who has won eight of the last nine WRC World Championships will only be partially involved in the World Rally Championship, dividing the activity with races on the track. The Frenchman has not specified how many and which events he will take part in, but this means that after the Loeb-Ogier dominance, interspersed only by Ott Tanak in 2019, in all probability in 2022 we will be able to witness the handover of the drivers’ title. Now all that remains is to understand if the eight-time world champion will be able to recover in time for the first Rally of the season or if instead he will be forced to change his plans for 2022 right from the start. The champion had thus commented on the start of the new era : “We’ve done some testing and no doubt the potential for the show is there. The aerodynamics are different, so it has changed the handling slightly, but the power when we have the full support of the hybrid unit is truly amazing – this is always thrilling to feel inside the cabin. I hope there will be other steps forward like this in the future ”. Ogier in 2020 and 2021 had to get his claws out and defend himself in every possible way from the attacks of Elfyn Evans. Will he be the favorite? “I don’t want to indicate myself as the favorite – explains the Toyota driver – the cars have changed a lot and we have to adapt quickly. I think it’s a very balanced championship. Some mistakes cost me the title in previous years, so I’ll have to be more consistent ”. Constance also coveted by Kalle Rovanpera, son of art with great ambitions: “This year the challenge is to fight for the title”, explains the Finn after the victories of 2021 and the momentary leader in the first part of the season. And the comparison with Max Verstappen comes by itself: “I have the same ambitions as the Dutchman even if in a different sport”. Finally, Takamoto Katsuta dreams of being able to get on the podium like in Kenya in 2021: “With these cars it will be more difficult but there will be more opportunities, because anything can happen when a new technology is introduced”.

Hyundai: title mission

Thierry Neuville, Hyundai star, will try to contend with Evans for the title: “This year there are many factors at play: tactics, strategies and calculations that until last year were not even considered because we had a 100% internal combustion engine” . A lot is also expected from Ott Tanak, who after the 2019 title has “another opportunity”. And according to him “driving with the left foot on the brake will not be revolutionized. We have a lot of power available and it will be interesting to understand how to best manage it on the various funds “. Dani Sordo did not test the car for a long time, but from his experience he feels that “we are facing an epochal change. We start from a blank sheet but the machine improves day by day. There are different philosophies of thought on how to drive, but there are many points in common and that is the path to take ”. Oliver Solberg hopes that hybrid technology will favor the new generation of drivers: “Maybe we adapt faster – jokes Petter’s son. Realistically I think it’s an adaptation that we will all have to deal with in the same way ”.

The Fia president

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, new FIA President who succeeded Jean Todt, comments on the beginning of the hybrid era: “As many of you know, rallies and the WRC World Championship are part of my life, so it is a special moment for me to witness close and in this role to what is in fact a new era of this sport. There is still a lot of work to be done and 2022 will be a year full of challenges for everyone, but with this regulation the line is drawn. The FIA ​​is responsible for innovating, introducing new technology into the regulation and thus promoting the electrification of vehicles. It will be a great test for sustainability, for the houses, for the drivers, for the engineers and also for the promoter. But we are optimistic for the future, we believe in this technology “. And he concludes: “Machines have had an incredible evolution. While they look little different from the WRC Plus at first glance, they are actually very different and this is exciting for years to come ”.

Challenges in the challenge

According to Malcolm Wilson, M-Sport Ford team manager, they are “the most exciting cars we have ever built”, while Pablo Marcos – who took over from Andrea Adamo as Hyundai team manager – says that “it will be a good fight in 2022 and we are ready to fight for the best “. Stefan Henrich, Hyundai marketing number one, is keen to emphasize that “Rally is one of the toughest competitions in the world for weather and ground conditions, which changes completely from Monte Carlo to New Zealand. Bringing the hybrid into motorsport makes us understand what direction to pursue on cars all over the world ”. And Julien Moncet (Hyundai powertrain manager) completes the reasoning: “Without regulation changes and without innovation we always remain at the same point. So the fact that we are facing a new era is only good for the development of technology, in motorsport and beyond ”. And Kay Lindstrom (Toyota) concludes: “Building a new car was a huge challenge. With the new regulation, everything changes, but we have put together the best possible package to provide the drivers with a competitive car like the one in recent years. But to confirm this we will have to wait for the first chronometric results of the Monte Carlo Rally ”. A challenge that Pirelli also welcomes with enthusiasm. These are the words of Terenzio Testoni: “We made several tests in the winter and we made a step forward in product quality, but we never stop developing. This year we will do the tests directly with the teams and this will help us to have more immediate feedback ”.

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Wrc: presented the hybrid Rally1s. The pilots: “A lot of power, a hard-fought World Championship”