While debate rages on regarding the merits of the impending switch to new Rally1 regulations in the World Rally Championship next year, Renault Sport is already pushing for electric vehicles to be included in the next set of regulation changes to the FIA’s global rallying pyramid.
Renault currently manufactures Rally4 and Rally5 versions of the Clio and also an A110 RGT vehicle from sister brand Alpine, all of which run traditional petrol engines from its road-car line-up.
But it has already begun lobbying the FIA to embrace a set of regulations that includes fully electric vehicles into its rally pyramid as soon as 2025, with its customer racing director Benoît Nogier describing the soon-to-be-introduced hybrid Rally1 cars as “a transition and no more”.
“Our long-term vision is clear. The future of rally cars is not even hybrid,” Nogier told DirtFish.
“For us, the next generation of car will be full electric and I think the FIA should be a bit more visionary and should now push a bit more for fully electric cars.
“It’s clear that in the future all the sporting cars available will be electric.”
A recent push from remaining Rally2 manufacturers led to the mild hybrid element of the proposed 2023 support-category regulations being dropped.
While it was a welcomed decision on cost grounds by at least one manufacturer currently in the Rally2 category, the decision to commit to a standard combustion-engined formula had left Nogier nonplussed, even with Renault’s line-up being directed towards customer rallying rather than a works program.
“I’m very surprised that the FIA decided to stay with 100% thermic cars for Rally2. I’m even very surprised at the technology that Rally1 will adopt next year. For me it’s not enough, clearly.
“We will work with the FIA to prepare the next world [cars]. But the next world is full electric. That’s really what we think. That’s the vision we have at Renault.”
The part of the electric vehicle must be much wider than what the FIA is proposing at the momentBenoît Nogier
Group Renault CEO Luca De Meo has publicly committed to having 10 EV models in the marque’s road car line-up by 2025, including a revival of the iconic Renault 5 that gained fame during the Group B era of rallying.
Nogier didn’t rule out a potential move into Rally1 if the formula was to become fully electric, though stressed the ongoing Alpine Formula 1 program made the presence of a factory World Rally Championship team unlikely.
“I think yes, it will be the next step,” replied Nogier when asked if a Rally1 program in WRC would be of interest should the FIA implement fully electric vehicles.
“It doesn’t mean Alpine will be involved in a program in Rally1 even if it’s 100% electric because for sure F1 will remain the main program for the Alpine brand.
“But whatever the category is – Rally5, Rally4, Rally2, Rally1 – the part of the electric vehicle must be much wider than what the FIA is proposing at the moment.
“I understand that hybrid can be a step and I accept it but for me, the hybrid car will be just a transition and no more.
“In 2025 we must be ready to homologate and to welcome full electric cars on the rallies.”
Renault’s first step in pushing rallying towards formal adoption of electric vehicles in its rally pyramid will come midway through next year, with work ongoing to create a prototype rally car based on a production-spec electric powertrain.
While Nogier emphasized it was merely a proof-of-concept exercise and not a formal commitment to build an all-electric rally car, he remained confident of its ability to persuade the FIA to adopt fully electric vehicles into its rally regulations in the future.
“If you want to do a nice electric racing car at the moment you need a specific battery. It costs a lot. But in the close future we will be able to use standard technology,” said Nogier.
“We are working on a demonstrator at the moment showing the potential of the standard [road car] technology and how we can use the standard technology on a proper rally car.
“It will open a door to the next generation of car and maybe the FIA will think again about what the [rally] pyramid could be in the future.”