The WRC omertà that’s increasingly hard not to break

Opinion: After it emerged that hybrid kits are being recalled, David Evans asks why the WRC teams are still silent


Seven months and a couple of weeks. That’s how long we’ve got before the teams are booking roads in the Gap area for their Monte Carlo Rally pre-event set-up tests. Not really that far away, is it?

Especially when those roads are being booked for cars that constitute the biggest regulation change since the arrival of World Rally Cars a quarter of a century ago. In engineering terms, hybrid is a big deal. Yes, yes, it might have been in Formula 1 and endurance racing for an age, but the actual process of bolting batteries and bits into rally cars is complicated.

So why is nobody talking about it?

None of the manufacturers will spill on how the Compact Dynamics-supplied units were working on the bench or in the cars before they were asked to be returned on Friday. It’s like everybody’s signed up to some weird World Rally Championship omertà.


WRC hybrid testing suspended as parts recalled

Compact Dynamics is understood to have requested the return of its hybrid kits via email on Friday

We’ve pushed in every direction, but received nothing concrete.

What I’m willing to wager, however, is that not one of the three manufacturer teams have run a hybrid-powered car at a competitive stage speed yet.

Hyundai, we know, is a little bit further behind having just had its 2022 program signed off by the board in Korea, but M-Sport and Toyota have both run cars. But have they run cars with hybrid?



Photo: M-Sport Ford WRT

One senior source close to the teams filled in some of the gaps earlier this week, saying: “Nobody from any of the teams will talk about the hybrid solution right now.

“It’s fair to say, developing hybrid into Rally1 cars is proving more problematic than anybody thought it would be. There are issues with the hardware, but at the same time the teams are being frustrated by some of the peripheral stuff as well.

“The last thing the teams want right now is for stories to get out about ‘their’ hybrid systems not working. Toyota, for example, mastered hybrid on the Prius in the late 1990s. How would it look for them if there are road cars covering millions of miles around the world, yet the pinnacle of the company’s engineering excellence can’t get it sorted on its next generation rally car?

We still have a crisis all over the world and 10 months after development started the first system was delivered - from my side this is a great success Compact Dynamics CEO Oliver Blamberger

“Even though we all know that’s absolutely, 100% not the case and they’re dealing with supplied parts, there’s still the potential it could come back on them.

“The manufacturers won’t discuss Rally1 hybrid development because they’re afraid to. It’s that simple.”

DirtFish challenged Compact Dynamics about concerns regarding the pace of development and delivery of parts last month.

CEO Oliver Blamberger outlined COVID-based schedule changes, saying: “We started the development of this in May last year, we still have a very strong crisis all over the world and 10 months later the first system is delivered – from my side this is a great success.”

Sebastien Ogier

Photo: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Patience is wearing thin in the service park right now.

As we know, Toyota’s 2022 engine is homologated and good to go, and M-Sport and Hyundai aren’t far behind with theirs. The FIA’s delivered its reworked safety cell and everybody knows what’s coming in terms of transmission and aero changes for January next year.

But still there’s a piece of the jigsaw missing. And if that piece can’t found and fitted soon, we can expect somebody to break the omertà. Then things could get really messy…

Ott Tanak

Photo: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Words:David Evans

Photography:McKlein Image Database, M-Sport Ford WRT, Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool