The race to the rally is on. With all eyes fixed on this week’s Monte Carlo Rally, there’s plenty of focus on the same event a year down the road. And the race to be ready for 2022 is going to offer a captivating backdrop to a fascinating 2021 campaign.
But who’s going to win?
It would be naïve to think part of the race hasn’t already been run. Speaking computationally, there’s little doubt engineers in Cumbria, Jyväskylä and in those sitting in the outskirts of Frankfurt have all fed data into their desktops and squared the virtual circle.
But when are we going to see a Rally1 car silent running for the first time? That’s the big question.
For folk who deal in ultimate precision, engineers do a fine line in ambiguity.
Nobody was willing to be tied to a month, let alone a week.
“We’re aiming for the first quarter of the year,” said Toyota technical director Tom Fowler, opening a 90-day window of possibility, sensing that he needs to offer a bit more to DirtFish readers.
“It is a bit of a race to get driving first. I’m not sure who’s winning at the moment, I think Chris [Williams, M-Sport Ford WRT head of rally engineering] is – but I hope not!”
With Compact Dynamics delivering hybrid hardware in or around February 8, it would be a something of a surprise not to see something rolling out somewhere on February 9. Not that we will actually see it. Or hear it. Such moments are only reported once completed and the collected face has avoided any potential for egg.
Given the complexity of the task in hand – which involves bringing not just a hybrid solution, but a whole new tubular chassis with significantly different aerodynamics to 2022 – it comes as little surprise to learn that development will be ongoing into the car’s first season.
Naturally, there’s always an evolution or two once a new car lands in the white heat of competition, but according to the teams some of the 2022 work will be more rudimentary.
Fowler added: “The timing of homologating the engine compared to receiving the information means, for sure, there’s going to be more work to do as the championship – we’ll have to work on that through the 2022 season.
“At the moment we don’t have enough information, we don’t have empirical data – obviously [it’s] only simulation data for what the hybrid is going to do and that’s based on very idealised conditions.
“As soon as we start to run the hybrid in real conditions with high temperatures, at higher altitudes and with different stage characteristics, we will start to understand more about how much of a contribution [in terms of power] we can take from the hybrid and what that contribution is in real numbers.
“That’s a way of filling in a part of the engine’s torque; so your engine’s characteristic needs to be optimized in certain areas where the hybrid might fill and matching that with the current [simulated] information is really tricky.”