Next year’s World Rally Champion will be the driver able to find a natural feeling with the next generation Rally1 cars quicker than anybody else, according to M-Sport Ford World Rally Team leader Craig Breen.
Breen tested the Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid for the first time last month – and was back behind the wheel of the team’s test car in Spain last week – and agreed with his contemporaries that it’s the biggest change in driving style in the history of the sport.
“It is a big challenge,” Breen told DirtFish. “I guess it’s the understanding of trying to harvest the energy and trying to do the re-gen all the time.
“Driving a rally car at 200kph [124mph] in the woods, at least for me, takes all the capacity I have in my brain and now you’re having to drive at the same speed and still find places to do the re-gen and get yourself a bit of a boost.
“It’s not going to be easy and whoever switches onto that the quickest, whoever is the quickest to get into a normal rhythm of doing that without thinking about it, then that’s going to be key [to 2022 success].”
Breen’s former team-mate Thierry Neuville has been behind the wheel of Hyundai’s hybrid challenger and remains unconvinced that change is a good thing.
“It’s very early to say how it’s going to be,” he said. “Many things are not working as they should, from the hybrid system.
“For me, so far, it’s going to be a change. I mean obviously so far the target is that you need to recover energy under braking – to be able to discharge on acceleration. If you don’t reach the target on the braking, you can’t have additional power on the exit. Which makes the whole thing very inconsistent, and very unpredictable.
“At the same time if you reach your target and you accelerate and you just slipped once [on] the throttle, you lose all the power you had available. So the car is very inconsistent to drive.
“It’s Formula E driving, on a rally road.”