Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Jari-Matti Latvala believes that the World Rally Championship should consider extending the current ruleset for ‘a few more years’ to allow hydrogen to become a more realistic successor to Rally1 machinery.
Under the existing formula, the hybrid Rally1 ruleset will run until the end of the 2024 season, after which it is hoped that more manufacturers will look to join the top class.
Latvala has already expressed his opposition to the pinnacle of rallying in potentially adopting fully electric technology in the future and reckons hydrogen would be ‘a nice solution’.
“I think it would be [sensible] to go on with these cars,” Latvala told selected media including DirtFish before the recent penultimate round of the season in Spain.
“It’s still under discussion at the moment but, of course there are options. We saw in Belgium [on the Ypres Rally] that Toyota has this hydrogen car; I think hydrogen would be a nice solution in rallying because it has an internal combustion engine and sound.
“In rallying, we definitely need sound,” continued Latvala. “We cannot cope with electric, full electric is not an option in the rally world.”
A key sticking point in terms of bringing in new manufacturers to the WRC lies in the timeline for homologation of the new generation of cars. With specific details still lacking from the FIA on what these cars will be like, Latvala suggests extending the current ruleset to at least the end of 2025 to ensure a degree of stability in the meantime.
“There are the discussions with the FIA, so they are still ongoing, but yeah, we need to get the final plan quite soon, because you need to have one-and-a-half years of testing,” said Latvala.
“We want to have more car manufacturers as well, and I know that [not] many will come if there is no clear target of where we are heading so we need that soon from the FIA, for sure.”
Latvala’s call for the introduction of hydrogen power for the WRC is perhaps unsurprising, given that Toyota is one of the biggest proponents of hydrogen cars on the road as well as on the stages with its Yaris GR H2.
“Hydrogen maybe to be in the championship in 2025 might be a bit early,” Latvala admitted. “So, in that sense, we could look to extend this [hybrid Rally1 ruleset] for a few more years and then get hydrogen in the championship. But it’s not depending on me.”
Robert Reid, the FIA’s deputy president sport as well as the 2001 World Rally Championship-winning co-driver, has noted however that the endurance format of rallying could be less suitable for hydrogen than it is in shorter sprint contests.
“If you’re fueling a hydrogen car for a 20-minute or a 40-minute stint in a race, that’s one thing. If you’re fueling a hydrogen car to do four hours before it comes back to the service park, and the hydrogen is super cooled, then you’ve got lots of other challenges,” he said.
In rallying, we definitely need sound, full electric is not an optionJari-Matti Latvala
“You’ve still got temperatures to deal with [whether it’s hydrogen gas or liquid], you need to burn off some of the excess pressure depending on the amount of time you use it.”
Reid however believes that hydrogen’s problems can be solved: “Ten years ago we were all really concerned about high voltage in cars with electricity,” he said. “I think the problems or the hurdles we put in with hydrogen at the moment might be easily solved, we’ve just never done it yet.
“It’s very simplistic to talk about hydrogen as a solution but actually it’s more complex when you start getting into all the details of it.”