Sat 08 Jan 2022

Wilson: ‘Hybrid changes are the biggest I’ve seen’

Leading figures in the FIA World Rally Championship believe reliability will be a crucial factor in the direction of this year’s titles.

The arrival of radical new hybrid technical regulations has brought arguably the biggest change to competing cars in the series’ 50-year history.

Manufacturer teams have continued to work on the development of their 2022 Rally1 machinery until the very last moment – with more work expected as the year unfolds.

Having competed through the Group B era as a driver and run Ford’s WRC effort since 1997, M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson has seen great change in the WRC. But nothing like this year.

“There’s no two ways around this,” said Wilson, “the changes for this season are a very big step in terms of the technology with the cars in the championship – the biggest I’ve seen in all the time I’ve been doing it.

“I think reliability will be the key to titles this season.”

Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Jari-Matti Latvala agrees: “For sure, reliability will be a key factor for all of the teams. There are a lot of new areas for the cars this year,” he said.

“Of course, we would all like more time for testing, but now the Monte (Rallye Monte-Carlo) is coming and we have to be ready.

“Always in this sport there are some things you don’t know about so much, but this year there’s going to be some more with the hybrid and the other changes to the car. It’s going to be a very exciting season.”

Latvala’s Toyota team begins this month’s season-opening Monaco-based event as defending manufacturers’ champion.

And leading that charge, at least in Monte-Carlo, will be nine-time Monte winner and defending drivers’ champion Sébastien Ogier.

The Frenchman, who drives a part-programme in 2022, feels the early events for Rally1 could be challenging, but he’s confident the cars will evolve in the coming three seasons.

“I’m very confident the cars will progress quickly,” said the champion. “We’ve seen this with the last generation of cars – they were for sure faster in 2021 than when they started in 2017.”

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