Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala has suggested that a common air conditioning unit could be fitted to Rally1 cars in order to combat the uncomfortably high cockpit temperatures experienced on Rally Portugal last weekend.
World Rally Championship teams and drivers are unanimously pushing the FIA for a solution as crew members, particularly the co-drivers, really struggled with the increased heat inside the cars.
That’s because as part of the new-for-2022 Rally1 regulations, the position of the exhaust has moved from the center, where it was on World Rally Cars, to the right-hand-side of the car – underneath where the co-drivers are sat.
The problem was so severe that world championship leader Kalle Rovanperä claimed it would be a safety concern if something wasn’t done about it, Hyundai deputy team director Julien Moncet predicted that drivers might not even be able to make it through some of the Safari Rally Kenya stages, and Craig Breen’s co-driver Paul Nagle’s racing boots were melting against the floor on Amarante – the longest stage of Rally Portugal.
Latvala was in agreement that the regulations should be looked at as “it needs to come from that side because we are more limited as the teams [with] what we can do”.
But he does have a solution up his sleeve in terms of an air conditioning unit – a system that was first used in the WRC two decades ago when Peugeot installed one in its 206 WRC for the warmer rallies.
“This is my personal opinion – we could have air conditioning in the cars, but it needs to be the same for everybody,” Latvala told DirtFish.
“The same model, the same weight and everything,that could be one solution. But OK of course you try to do temporary solutions for Sardinia, now we need time to think what we can do and for sure we [need to] try something.”
Moncet agreed with his opposite number at Toyota.
“Yeah it’s something, we saw it in the past already from previous cars. It makes sense, it’s not too late for Kenya,” he told DirtFish.
Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville can also see merit in Latvala’s proposal.
“I would definitely agree with that,” he told DirtFish.
“I mean, it’s something we’ve been working on for a long time but we also thought that it would be worse with these cars and it definitely was,” Neuville continued on the issue in general.
“We were lucky that yesterday [Saturday] and today [Sunday] it was quite cloudy and not as hot as Friday. But Friday was extremely tough and we were all exhausted.”
The Rally1 regulations have remained set since the start of the season, but this isn’t the first time the teams have lobbied the FIA for change.
During the testing phase last year, co-drivers were unhappy about how high they were sitting inside the car.
The seating position was raised in order to protect co-drivers, who were sitting lower than drivers in World Rally Cars, from impacts through the floor in the event of an accident.
A compromise was met where the seating position was lowered slightly but it was still written in the regulations that it had to be a certain height from the floors, whereas before there was no such regulation.