Each World Rally Championship team will have to develop its own synthetic sound system for its Rally1 car, instead of one common unit being supplied by the FIA, it has been revealed.
Last week the 2023 Rally1 technical regulations were updated, mandating that each top-line machine from Toyota, Hyundai and M-Sport Ford must include what was described as a “sound module” from May 1 onwards.
That means Rally Portugal will be the first WRC round the regulation comes into play.
It is stipulated that the sound module must produce a minimum of 80dB of sound in an open area and must be two meters from the front and rear of the car, raised one meter from the ground.
But DirtFish has learned that unlike the actual hybrid unit themselves that are a common part supplied by Compact Dynamics, each manufacturer team must design and develop its own sound module itself.
M-Sport team principal Richard Millener told DirtFish: “It’s down to every team to come up with their own individual designs, so it could be a module off your road cars or it could be something you design yourself.
“The parameters are basically up to a certain speed it has to be 80dB, the rest is up to you really.
“Personally I would have liked to have seen something that came from FIA that was consistent across the board so when people hear a noise they know it’s a car, but at the moment they don’t want to implement that and we have to find our own solutions.
“Implementing [it on] May 1, that’s purely just to give us some time to develop it, so we’ll have it for Portugal.”
Millener added that discussions over raising the noise of Rally1 cars in areas like the service park have “been going on in the background for a while” and fully agreed that they were necessary.
“Having seen it ourselves after all the years being in WRC where cars would drive round the service park with a combustion engine, you always knew where one was coming when something was coming – same with Rally2 cars now.
“But when the Rally1 cars come in full-electric mode, you just don’t hear them – especially with fans and if there’s music in the service park.
“So it’s simple as it’s just a safety feature to make sure the service parks remain as safe as possible at the end of the day.
“People are here to see these cars and see this environment, the last thing we need is some kind of an accident because somebody didn’t hear a car coming.”
Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala agreed.
“Actually, there’s been a few situations where you come into the service and people are walking you don’t actually realize it,” he told DirtFish.
“So I understand that safety-wise for the road sections it’s a clever thing to have.”
Latvala swerved the question when asked if it was the right thing for the FIA to let teams design these sound modules themselves, instead talking about the importance of having cars that make sufficient noise on the stages.
But the team has confirmed it already has its own sound module in place, and it’s been there since Monte Carlo.
Hyundai team principal Cyril Abiteboul meanwhile suggested that adding synthetic noise to electrified cars cheapened the relevance of the WRC’s hybrid switch for automakers.
But he did point out a potential benefit of the teams having control over the design of the system too.
Abiteboul told DirtFish: “As Hyundai has been massively involved with electrification, we would not like it but it is what it is – it is not the sort of thing that we like.
“A lot of thought has been given and we have been working with Korea [as to] what could be the signature [sound],” he added.
“First it was important to read the regulations but thinking also in the future what we want to do to give this sort of unique signature which can be part of the brand identity of Hyundai.”