The race to be ready for the WRC’s hybrid era

The teams, FIA, and drivetrain manufacturer are hard at work readying for the next generation of cars


There’s a five-way race to be ready to start the next generation of Rally1 cars from January 1.

Five-way? How so, when we only have three manufacturers working on developing new cars for the World Rally Championship’s 2022 hybrid future?

The fourth manufacturer is Compact Dynamics, the supplier of the e-motor, powertrain and battery (although the battery is sub-contracted to Kreisel Electric). And the fifth is the FIA’s development of the uniform safety cell to slot inside the cars.

While they wait for the hybrid apparatus and confirmed rollcage specifications and dimensions, the manufacturers are flat out on scaling their spaceframe, tubular chassis.

“It is a race,” Toyota technical director Tom Fowler told DirtFish. “We should have [hybrid] units delivered by the end of this year, so it’s a race against time between the hybrid unit [supplier] and a car to fit it into. And everybody’s target is to be testing early in 2021.”

Compact Dynamics is busy testing the reliability and durability of its hardware at the moment. For a company with vast experience in circuit racing, stepping across to the muddier side of motorsport brings additional challenges.

Compact Dynamics managing director Oliver Blamberger told DirtFish: “One of the main challenges for the WRC is reliability in the very different environmental situations.

“For example the heat, dust, high temperature and height above sea in Mexico, low temperature in Sweden, and the internal and external logistics to realize all that.

“Timelines in motorsport are always ambitious and I see no difference to the WRC hybridization project right now.

“An important factor for this is that we don’t have to start from zero. The basic motor and the basic power electronics are already developed and we have only to advance the components for the utilization in WRC.”

While the teams know the multi-million dollar development costs of hybrid (admittedly those costs are shared between the teams), they still can’t budget for the implementation of the first hybrid generation.

Fowler added: “There is a question mark on the cost. Until we know how many units we will need we can’t budget.

“Yes, the price list is there, but how many do we need to buy for reliability reasons and for logistical reasons?

“It’s really difficult to say because we don’t really have a calendar yet [for 2022] so we can’t say how we can get each part from place to place in terms of the sort of [event] links done for components like, for example, the engine and gearbox.

“On top of that, nobody has run this unit in a car before, so we don’t know if the target for reliability is realistic.”

In an ideal world a hybrid mule could have been produced – potentially an easier task for Toyota Gazoo Racing, given its extensive knowledge of hybrid from its Le Mans program. But Fowler said the costs were prohibitive.

“Physically it could have been possible to fit another hybrid unit into the current car,” he said, “but it’s a whole other project and the amount of time it would take us to get that up and running would almost offer no gain – and the resources required could put at risk actually getting the real one running as early as possible.

“It’s a sound engineering plan to do mule car for testing as early as possible, but in the big picture of the World Rally Championship and WRC teams, it’s not really reasonable compared to resources and time available.”

Naturally, speculation about the 2022-generation cars continues, with the drivers predictably focusing on the performance question.

One leading WRC driver said: “We hear a lot about the possible extra performance we are going to have from these cars, the extra speed we can make if we’re allowed to use the boost in the stages. But if we use the boost in the stage then do we have it left to use also in the liaison sections going through the towns?

“And, from what we see from the early numbers, the battery and motor and all the new parts in the car is going to add a lot of weight. When you also take away the [center] diff and the changes coming in the suspension, I think it could be losing time to an R5 car in some places.”

The 2022 Rally1 car plot thickens…