The introduction of hybrid regulations to the second tier of the World Rally Championship has been raised as a possibility once more, less than six months after plans for a hybrid Rally2 category were scrapped.
A proposal from the FIA for a 48-volt low-voltage starter/generator system to be added to Rally2 vehicles from 2023 onwards was not implemented, with existing manufacturers preferring to focus on adopting sustainable fuels instead.
But that position may now be shifting. Julien Moncet, who will assume direct control of Hyundai’s Rally2 program when Andrew Johns departs next month, has suggested that some form of hybrid powertrain is likely to be part of the category’s long-term future.
“We are interested to see what will be the future of Rally2 regulations. Now that Rally1 has moved towards hybrid, what will happen with Rally2? That’s the big question,” Moncet told DirtFish.
“I think at some point we’ll have to bring some hybrid to Rally2 but we have to find the right balance in between some things that is hybrid, e-something and something usable by any customer team at a good price. The balance is not easy to find.”
Some manufacturers not currently producing cars at the Rally2 level have also indicated they will pursue customer programs should hybrid rules be introduced, including Opel.
Renault has not been as forthright in its Rally2 interest but its customer racing manager Benoît Nogier suggested a hybrid future for Rally2 would warrant its consideration.
“Not at the moment. I hope [so] but step-by-step,” Nogier said when DirtFish asked if Rally2 was on Renault’s agenda.
“Let’s see for the Rally2. But for that, we will maybe have to wait [to find out] what the future will be for the new category in Rally2.
“I think it would be logical to have a kind of hybrid solution for Rally2 as well in the future. Maybe even full electric, I don’t know. What is sure is that Rally2 will have to follow the movement [of the consumer market] as well in the future.”
Though FIA deputy president sport Robert Reid expressed contentment with the current sustainable fuels solution, he conceded that ‘mild hybrid’ remained an option for the WRC’s primary feeder series.
“Sustainable, carbon-free, fossil-free fuels is a good solution going forwards,” said Reid.
“The complexity of the Rally1 cars make it difficult for that exact technology to be used in customer racing. Rally2 has been very successful as a format so we need to take the learnings from that and look to see what the next generation is.
“Some form of mild hybrid is something that would be considered but we need to understand it. We definitely need to make it cost-effective and easy enough to run for customers.”
Cost remains an important factor for what is primarily a customer racing category, with M-Sport the only team that enters factory-prepared cars at WRC2 level.
Škoda outsources its works-supported program to German firm Toksport, Hyundai’s works-supported WRC2 effort is managed by RedGrey, and Citroën spreads its efforts over several independent preparation firms.
Beyond the WRC, Rally2 cars are currently utilized as a top-level car in the majority of national championships worldwide.