M-Sport Ford team principal Rich Millener says rallying needs to be “a little bit slower” in its approach to incorporating new technologies than other areas of motorsport.
The World Rally Championship is adding a hybrid element to its existing power units in 2022 for the first time, while in Austria and New Zealand there have already been all-electric cars designed for the rally stages that have been seen in action.
Next year’s new ruleset for the WRC, called Rally1, currently has three manufacturers committed to it after lengthy negotiations with WRC Promoter, the FIA and the boards of automotive brands, and M-Sport’s Ford Puma is the first car built to those regulations to be revealed.
“I think it will be interesting in the next few years to see how the car market goes – whether some people go hydrogen, whether some people go emission-free fuels, some people go battery, and I think rallying’s one of the sports that needs to be a little bit slower in adopting some of this,” Millener said.
My opinion is battery is a solution, but it's not the only solution and something will co-exist against itRich Millener
“A lot of the fans were worried that these new cars in 2022 were going to be battery and quiet and lose everything. Well, they’re not, they’re the same WRC ICE [internal combustion] engines that we have now, with a hybrid adding on more power, and the drivers think they’re actually going to be as competitive if not slightly faster.”
Millener was asked if he thinks Rally1, which has come a decade after other high-profile motorsport championships adopted hybrid technology, will be changed to reflect the automotive picture after the three-season spell it’s currently confirmed to be in use for.
“Honestly I tend to plan about seven days in advance, so three years down the line is maybe a little bit much,” he said. “But I think the reality is it’s very difficult to judge because the car industry is moving so quickly.
“Personally, my opinion is battery is a solution, but it’s not the only solution and something will co-exist against it. In Cumbria we struggle to get broadband, so I don’t know how we’re going to charge electric cars everywhere.
“I don’t think we need to worry about that [the longer term future] until a little bit further into the future and decide what way the car market’s going and decide what’s relevant for this sport because it’s important that you don’t lose the DNA of the sport.”