Hybrid power in the World Rally Championship might feel like it’s still in its infancy, but there’s already plenty of talk about the future of power delivery beyond 2024. And Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala doesn’t believe electric is the one to pursue.
Teams have had plenty of time to assess the hybrid units after nine rounds of this year’s WRC season, and although there were some initial technical gremlins, Latvala has been encouraged by its overall performance.
“I think there was quite a lot of question marks at the end of last year and we were a little bit afraid how it’s going to work out, but all in all I think it’s worked out well,” he said.
“For the drivers, they enjoy the extra boost that they get. They are fast.
“The cars are as fast as last year’s cars, the 2017 spec cars. There is also good sound in the car.
“In the beginning of the year like Monte, Sweden we see some technical issues but those are sorted out.
“Now they are sorted out I would say it’s been a positive thing for the championship.”
The WRC’s adoption of hybrid technology came at a time when other world championships had already gone down the path of alternative mobility.
But while he’s happy that the introduction of hybrid power has been a success, Latvala doesn’t believe that full electric power is the future for rally.
“The full electric I must say we need to be very cautious with that,” explained Latvala.
“I would say for the sport, the rally sport, [it’s not the] right thing to have.
“I mean unfortunately it doesn’t work out and I think also Toyota realizes that that’s what I mean.
“They’re pushing this H2 [hydrogen power], that’s what could be the full solution but not the full electric.”
Nobody will come to the forests to watch a car when there is no soundJari-Matti Latvala
Latvala believes electric power does have a pace in motorsport, but there’s several reasons why it’s not suitable for rallying.
“Nobody will come to the forests to watch a car when there is no sound.
“It will work on a race circuit because there is close contacts and cars fighting against each other, but not against time.
“So I think this solution that hybrid together with sustainable fuel has been good because like I said, in motorsport we go towards the sustainable measures in all the fields.”
Toyota is already exploring hybrid technology and Toyota’s CEO Akio Toyoda, along with four-time World Rally champion Juha Kankkunen, drove a hydrogen powered Yaris GR on the Ypres Rally stages.
And for Latvala, a hydrogen power source would be his preferred method as it means cars will still retain the sound and the atmosphere that fans love the discipline for.
“We need to think about this era with the hybrid is going until the end of 2024, and quite soon we also need to decide what are we going to do in 2025 onwards.
“Toyota is investing a lot for the hydrogen, and I think this could be one very interesting area where we could use something technology where we can still have the internal combustion engine.
“You can keep the sound; you can see that it’s still exciting but there are no emissions.
“So, this is something that is very, very interesting, but of course everything needs to be discussed between the teams, with the FIA.
“But at least there is something on the pocket which we can look.”