With hybrid Rally1 cars now up and running, the time has come to talk through what we can expect from the next generation. How will they stack up against the outgoing World Rally Cars?
Toyota technical director Tom Fowler is a man who has spent longer than most plotting just those numbers. The new-for-2022 cars will be heavier than their predecessors, but they will also be the most powerful – the first 500bhp rally cars since the demise of Group B. But the full power won’t be available all the time.
Next year will also mean a return to a sequential, five-speed gearbox, slightly less aero and a revised transmission which means a mechanical rather than active center differential.
The big question is, will they be faster or slower than this year?
“What’s going to happen is the difference between different conditions is going to get bigger,” Fowler told DirtFish. “If we take a Tarmac rally, for example, we’re not going to be too different to now.
“If we take fast gravel, a Finland situation, again not a huge difference.
“But in the slower, slippier and more technical stages, there will be a smaller the gap from Rally1 to Rally2. This is where we might see the cars slightly down [on the current cars].
“In more slippery conditions you don’t get the same advantage from having the extra power [from the battery] and having more weight is another disadvantage when you’re having to change direction more often: you need to accelerate and decelerate more often.
“So, in short, on slower, lower-grip situations you will see a difference. This is only what we see with the current R5 and Rally2 cars now – when we’re in these difficult, technical, twisty and muddy places, we can see the R5 cars on top of the leaderboard. On difficult stages, we’ll see this more often next year.”
But surely the more restricted aerodynamics will have an impact on the faster stages? Yes, there will be less drag, but equally there will be less grip?
“For me, it’s a bit the right side of halfway back to the old regulations for the aero,” Fowler said.
“It’s kind of halfway back to a 2016 car, but a bit more 2017 than 2016, if that makes sense.”