M-Sport boss: Hybrid will add to WRC spectacle

Millener stresses no need to delay rules, which are due to be introduced in 2022

Esapekka Lappi

M-Sport Ford team principal Richard Millener says he is looking forward to the prospect of what hybrid rally cars could bring to the World Rally Championship stages for fans.

In the first episode of DirtFish Debates, Millener laid out his thoughts on the WRC’s planned switch to hybrid regulations for 2022 and why he thinks it will benefit spectators.

Framing his response around the planned 2022 introduction date, Millener said he believes the championship does not need to resort to a delay for its technological shift amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve got to be a bit careful about jumping the gun and saying lets freeze everything [with the regulations] and stop and wait and see,” he said.

“We know this year and next year is going to be difficult. But we’ve got to think that 2022 is still quite a long way away yet and we would all hope that the world will be somewhere on its way to recovering from what’s going on at the moment.

“If you stop now and delay everything, then you could end up in more trouble than you started with. By trying to carry on now while we still have the opportunity to carry on what we’re doing with the 2022 cars is possible to do without events, we can make good use of this time.”

Millener’s enthusiasm to keep the ball rolling on the hybrid move isn’t shared across the world of rallying, not least by its fanbase.

“I’ve read a lot of comments about the introduction of hybrid and it being a negative on rallying, but I think what we’re doing – everyone [who] is involved in these decision-making exercises are fans of the sport, we’re not about to try to kill the sport off with hybrid,” he said.

“I think hybrid is actually something that will really add to the spectacle and the performance and add another element to the series.”

Off-road motorsport disciplines have been among the slowest to adopt alternative energy solutions in place of or alongside the internal combustion engine, and the WRC’s hybrid kit needs to be tested rigorously in the hostile conditions it may face in competition.

“It’s not necessarily about bringing brand new technology to the sport, our rally cars need to mirror what’s going on in the showrooms and what our manufacturers are selling,” added Millener.

“That’s the point we’re missing at the moment, because the cars we’re using at the minute are not really relevant to the line-up of models that manufacturers have.

“So I think we’re catching up a little bit in that way, but then at the same time being able to push forward and develop the sport as we go along. I definitely don’t think we should be stopping, and we need to push on and stay positive and aim for 2022.”