Suddenly, I see. I see the future of the World Rally Championship. There’s more than a hint of green to it, but there’s the real potential for green to go gold.
Munich on the first Monday in September. That was the day everything fell into place for WRC 2022. Understandably, both the FIA and WRC Promoter have been reluctant to talk too much about hybrid and what’s coming next season. And some – potentially me included – have been too quick to misinterpret powder being kept dry for a lack of progress.
Yes, some things have been too slow to happen and we could certainly have done with fewer bumps in the road. But against the backdrop of a global pandemic, the WRC is being reshaped, reformed into something far more meaningful.
Hybrid. What does hybrid really mean? Hybrid was news a decade ago. More. It doesn’t make sense. It didn’t make sense. That’s because it was being seen in isolation.
Monday night in Munich, WRC Promoter and the series’ stakeholders talked about a 360-degree approach to sustainability. It’s more than a carbon-neutral tagline.
Next year’s top class will run genuine plug-in hybrid cars with a fully charged 500bhp coming with slashed emission levels courtesy of synthetic and bio-fuel components being blended to make fossil-free hydrocarbon-based fuel from P1 Racing Fuels.
A line diagram demonstrated water electrolysis, carbon capture, renewables and biomass feedstock all feeding into a 2022 Rally1 car. I’m not sure of the chemistry. I’m not sure the chemistry isn’t biology. But what I do know is that we’re sustainable and we’re not making the hole in the ozone layer any bigger. That much of the science, I know, is a very good thing.
And it doesn’t stop there. It might not happen from round one in 2022, but the plan is to make the entire service park sustainable. That means no more diesel generators. That means fuel cells and solar panels for goal posts.
And the plug-in bit, it’s real. First service on the Monte Carlo Rally and Sébastien Ogier will drive his Toyota Yaris WRC Rally1 into a control area, get out, and plug it in to charge it.
A message like that only serves to strengthen the WRC’s USP as the most meaningful and relatable side of global motorsport. Yes, we could bang on about electric or hydrogen being the future for rallying and maybe it is in the long-term, but right now it’s about sustainable hybrid.
Listening to rally director Yves Matton and the FIA’s technical director Xavier Mestelan-Pinon, it was impossible not to be energized by what’s coming.
Matton talked of Rally1 maintaining the DNA of rallying while providing a genuine laboratory for road cars. For years rallying has tried to convince folk of that. It just got really real.
Through Monday evening, we learned more about the effort that has gone into making Rally1 cars the safest metal ever to take to the stages in. And that doesn’t stop at the safety cell – the FIA’s well aware that cars crash into the trees in the middle of nowhere, and that’s why it’s starting out on a policy of education for everybody involved in WRC rounds to make them aware that a crashed Rally1 car could pose an electrical threat.
The cars will come with green and red lights to indicate when they’re safe to touch as well as a siren that will sound, warning people to stay away from the car.
Mestelan-Pinon is a man whose Citroën cars dominated rallying for close to a decade – it’s both clear and comforting to see he has turned his trademark attention to detail to keeping rallying safe.
The Munich meeting generated plenty of news lines – all of which will be coming to you via DirtFish in the coming days and weeks.
FIA president Jean Todt said: “In just a few months from now we will enter a new era for the FIA WRC with a new generation of hybrid cars. Rally1 is coming in 2022. Tomorrow.”
And for those still thinking tomorrow never comes, I’ve got news for you: this time it does.