Hybrid ‘could be more crucial than ever’ on Rally México

The altitude of México's stages means hybrid will play a bigger part than normal


Hybrid power “could be more crucial” on next week’s Rally México than anywhere else in the World Rally Championship, according to Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville.

The WRC makes its first trip to Guanajuato in three years next week for round three of the 2023 season.

That means it is the first time any of the teams or drivers have headed to North America with Rally1 cars, which were introduced at the start of the 2022 season.

With the Rally1 regulations now 15 WRC events old, the 100kW electric units are a known quantity to the world’s finest rally drivers and engineers.

But all of that previous learning has never been less meaningful than it will be next week.

Rally México is unique in that its stages all run at high altitude, sometimes as high as 2700m above sea level, which has a tangible effect on engine performance.

In previous years drivers have therefore had to battle with World Rally Cars that have felt like they have the power of a Rally2 machine instead.


But the added punch of electric power, which isn’t affected by the thinner air at higher altitudes, is expected to make this power deficit far less noticeable for drivers.

Neuville, a three-time podium finisher in México, told DirtFish: “Hybrid could be more crucial in Mexico than anywhere else because of the loss of power due to the altitude.

“So hybrid’s going to make a difference over there.”

Six-time Rally México winner Sébastien Ogier agreed.

“Let’s see now in México how it’s running, but for sure, it’s going to be interesting to watch how the hybrid can help the lack of power with the altitude because obviously the electric has no influence with the altitude,” said the eight-time world champion after his pre-event test last week.

“So it will be nice to have this benefit.”

Ogier believes hybrid strategy will therefore play a big part in the result.

“I think it will be more important than ever to use it as efficiently as possible because it can make a big difference in the performance,” he explained.

“But yeah, I’m looking forward [to it]. It’s always a nice atmosphere in this rally, beautiful stages, so looking forward to be there.”

Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans admitted however that there are some concerns about how the hybrid units will perform at such heights and in such heat.

“It will be a challenge I guess,” Evans said, “but it could feel less of a deficit compared to the old cars perhaps.”

Words:Luke Barry