Hyundai Motorsport team principal Andrea Adamo believes it will take “at least three years” to understand if the World Rally Championship’s move to hybrid propulsion in 2022 is the correct one.
While other disciplines of motorsport have begun to incorporate hybrid and, in some cases, electric powertrains in recent years, the WRC has continued to incorporate internal combustion engines (ICE) across all of its classes.
That all changes in 2022 when the new Rally1 era begins. Each top-line rally car will still feature an ICE unit, but it will be mated to a 100kW (134bhp) e-motor that is being manufactured by Compact Dynamics.
Each World Rally team now has a hybrid unit but DirtFish revealed last week that there are some early teething issues that need to be ironed out before the 2022 season.
Toyota and M-Sport Ford have both publicly committed to the WRC’s new era but Hyundai has yet to make such a commitment despite its growing presence in the championship and successive manufacturers’ titles in 2019 and ’20.
When asked by DirtFish if he was optimistic about Hyundai remaining in the WRC, Adamo replied: “I think that I’m optimistic to see Hyundai in the future in WRC. If you ask me do you think the current rules for 2022 are the good ones for the future of rallying? I don’t know.
“As Andrea Adamo – not wearing any Hyundai stuff – I’m not sure.”
Adamo believes that the number of new manufacturers that invest in and join the WRC will dictate whether the new Rally1 regulations are a success, citing five (two new) as the target.
There is one and only thing that will be a clear answer: how many manufacturers will we have in WRC in three years?Hyundai team principal Andrea Adamo on WRC's hybrid future
“I can say that it will take at least three years to understand if the move was right,” he said.
“There is one and only thing that will be a clear answer: how many manufacturers will we have in WRC in three years?
“Will we stick with three, or maybe even less? [Then it] was not [the right move]. But it will be too late. We will have back five, six? Five, for me it’s the target. More than five is not realistic.
“Then we may say they have taken the right decision because I don’t want to take a part of the decision that I was not really fond of. But if there will be five manufacturers, I will say it was the correct decision. What I like to say, do we have an alternative? Maybe not.”
The WRC has struggled to garner strong manufacturer interest ever since the global financial crisis in 2008, with participation peaking at four manufacturers from 2014 to ’16 when Hyundai, Citroën and M-Sport Ford were joined by Volkswagen and in 2017 when Toyota replaced the departing VW.
However entries were far higher two decades earlier. When the World Rally Car regulations were introduced back in 1997, there were as many as seven automakers competing in the WRC with Peugeot, Citroën, Ford, Subaru, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Škoda and Seat all present at various points between 1999 and 2001.
While Adamo doesn’t expect the WRC to attract this many automakers with its latest rules cycle, he does suggest the existing manufacturers need to work together to attract fresh participation.
“I remember when the WRC-specific rally cars’ regulations were written,” Adamo said. “I remember there were many manufacturers interested and deeply discussing about it and a few years back we already had Toyota, the first year from August.
“Peugeot arrived immediately after. Now, let’s see. For sure we have to work together very, very closely to defend the WRC in this moment and avoid any polemic and work together, because the worst [thing] we can do now is to make polemic about anything about this.”