Rally1 cars could ‘deliver the WRC’s ultimate driver’

Toyota's Tom Fowler explains how the rule changes will put a new focus on driver adaptability


Toyota’s technical director Tom Fowler is a very polite man. But ultimately he’d had enough.

There are a finite number of times DirtFish can dress up the single question about how his Rally1 car ran with hybrid before the patience of an Englishman living in Finland runs out.

“I’m not going to tell you anything,” said Fowler. And that was before I’d even asked the question.

“I know what you’re going to ask me and I’m not telling you anything.”

Five minutes later, he hadn’t changed his mind. But we had started to wear him down. He was willing to talk about the philosophy of the car on the back of the test.

We could go with that.

“As we’ve discussed before, these 2022 regulations are very significant,” said Fowler. “It’s a very, very big change we’re coming to and getting the best out of these cars is going to be demanding on the drivers.



DirtFish understands the car completed close to 200 miles of running near Jyväskylä

“The 2022 regs take away many of the things that help the driver, with things like the centre differential, the aerodynamics and the fancy front and rear differentials.

“The current cars have had lots of driving aids taken away for next year, but the available amount of power has gone up – so effectively it’s a more difficult thing to drive. We spent some of the time [at the test] trying to recover the driveability.”

Asked if the 2022 cars would reward more and potentially deliver the ultimate driver, Fowler spotted a potential headline attributed to himself. And neatly dodged it.

“You could say that,” he said. “I guess there’s an element that this will deliver the ultimate driver.

“But the driver who will benefit the most is the guy who understands clearly that rallying is a compromise, and what the center diff, the trick front and rear diffs, the dampers and all the technology now banned used to do for you is make the car very adjustable between and even in some stages.



Fowler offers more insight on the difference between the current cars and their successors

“With the centre diff, for example, you could start a stage with a certain understeer-oversteer map and if you decide it’s not working as well as you want halfway through a stage you could change it by pushing a button to deliver another pre-programmed map.

“Now you’re going to start a loop with only some damper clicks to work with until lunchtime or the end of the day.”

The move back to mechanical transmission means the choice of two differential set-ups, the starting configuration and one spare with different internals.

So, we might not know the inner workings of Toyota’s Yaris Rally1, but we do know the cars are going to be more edgy and, by definition, more entertaining.