What is a hybrid-less Rally1 car going to be like?

Mārtiņš Sesks' outing on Rally Poland will be the first time a Rally1 car has competed without a hybrid system


It’s been possible since the beginning of 2024, but Rally Poland is the first time we will see a Rally1 car competing on a round of the World Rally Championship with no hybrid assistance.

Behind the wheel will be Mārtiņš Sesks, as the Latvian makes his debut in top-level machinery. Poland is a warm-up event for Sesks, who will drive the Puma with the hybrid system reinstalled at Rally Latvia.

Until then, his Poland run will act as fascinating insight into how much difference the 135bhp hybrid boost makes to overall performance.


Sesks got himself adquainted with Puma Rally1 at Estonia test last week

Ahead of the rally, M-Sport team principal Rich Millener told DirtFish just what’s involved in removing the hybrid system from the Puma, and what difference he expects it to make to performance.

While removing a battery, electric motor and all of its associated electronics may sound complex, Millener says that it actually makes little difference for the M-Sport team in terms of running the car.

“Very little change for us, to be honest,” he said. “The hybrid unit is replaced with a ballast block, effectively, and it won’t have the inlet ducts on the side of the car. Everything else you see will look pretty much the same.

“Obviously, it’s a little bit easier in terms of [not] having to ensure that all the hybrid safety stuff is being looked at when we’re servicing, but it’s not a huge difference in running, to be honest.”

What about the performance then? Just how much slower should we expect Sesks’ car to be than his hybrid-powered rivals?


M-Sport crew will not need to adopt hybrid safety protocols when handling Sesks' car in Poland

“I’m sure it will be behind Rally1 and ahead of Rally2,” Millener said. “It should pretty much be there. You know, it’s more power than Rally2 and better handling and better suspension, but less power than the Rally1 hybrid, so it should sit somewhere around where it’s designed to be.”

Based on past experience of drivers suffering hybrid failures, Millener’s assessment should be on the money. A loss of hybrid assistance isn’t a rally-ender by any means, and the M-Sport boss believes running without it in Poland won’t significantly impact Sesks’ performance.

He said: “I think on a faster rally, you tend to use it slightly less because you’re at higher end speeds all the time, which you’re not necessarily using hybrid so much.

“You can use it coming out of the slower corners, and certainly, there is a disadvantage when you don’t have it, but I think, honestly, the biggest factor in Mārtiņš’ case is going to be his experience in the car versus having hybrid or not.”

When Sesks climbs back into the Puma for his home event, Rally Latvia, he will have the chance to experience the full performance of the Puma. Reinstallation of the hybrid is a simple process, especially as M-Sport will only be removing the essentials for Poland.


Millener is hopeful that Sesks' run will encourage others down the hybrid-less route

Millener explained: “There is a bung where the hybrid shaft would go into the rear diff powering the car, but some of the cooling for the hybrid system, the pipe work, we’ve left in because we’re putting it to hybrid afterwards. But there isn’t a huge amount of change now.”

The simplicity of removing and reinstalling the system is important in Millener’s view, as Sesks’ outing in Poland will demonstrate to potential customers that it’s possible to buy a Rally1 car and run it in either specification.

“We’ve been telling that [story] for a number of years,” he said. “If they want to just go into a world event and rent the hybrid unit and the people in the resource for that, they could. And then they could put it to non-hybrid and use it wherever they want. Because without hybrid, it’s effectively just a combustion-engine WRC car, which is what we used to see 10 or 15 of being used all over the place.

“So that was the goal, to focus and show that. And I think, hopefully, Mārtiņš’ interviews at stage end about how much he enjoys driving the car will maybe stimulate people to think: ‘I can get one of these and use it in my national championship.’”