Friday | 26 Jun 2020

WRC hybrid: the biggest change for a generation

At first sight, nothing changes. It’s the sound that gets you: tyre noise, transmission chatter, squeaky brakes. The first time we see a new-generation 2022 rally car coming into service at the opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship will be a landmark moment.

Not to mention a very quiet one.

In the biggest change in technical regulations since the arrival of Group A in 1987, the WRC’s top category will not rely solely on internal combustion for forward motion. Welcome to the championship’s hybrid era.

In 18 months, headline class cars will incorporate cutting-edge technology to make them leaner and greener than ever before. Travelling through towns, cities and service parks, they will rely on battery power rather than petrol to make their silent progress.

“This is the future for the WRC,” said FIA rally director Yves Matton. “It’s exciting to be working towards this next generation.”

Video: WRC into the hybrid future

Side-by-side with delivering on current WRC ambitions, manufacturer teams are developing their 2022 cars in preparation for testing to begin next season.

The hybrid system will be provided by German company Compact Dynamics, a firm with a rich heritage in supplying electrical solutions to motorsport at all levels, including Formula 1, endurance racing and the Formula E all-electric race series.

Compact Dynamics will supply the E-motor, power electronics and the drive system. The battery, which when fully charged will deliver around 100kw (approximately 130bhp) will be supplied by Kreisel Electrics.

An extra 130bhp, which would take power output to around 500bhp sounds interesting, especially if it can be used in stages. Primarily, battery power will be used in the transition through built-up areas, but deployment in competition is something the FIA is looking into.

“We are,” said Matton, “looking at some areas in stages where we could use this extra power. But we have to be careful where it’s used.”

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But hybrid’s about more than going quietly faster, it’s about aligning the WRC with sport and society.

Matton added: “We see right now with current road car manufacturers, hybrid is the trend and the future for the range.

“The evolution of society means hybrid and electric cars have a great future. This is where the marketing focus is from [manufacturers] and, as a sport, we have an opportunity to reflect that. The conditions we have in WRC are really challenging for this technology.”

And what an opportunity. The WRC is the ultimate shop window for an aspirational road car manufacturer. Where better to demonstrate your product across the full gamut of conditions?

Listen to the full interview with FIA WRC Category Manager Andrew Wheatley here.