It’s been an age since Rally Sweden – a gap bigger than the off-season between last year’s Monza Rally and this year’s Monte Carlo Rally.
It’s therefore easy to forget that two months ago, much of the World Rally Championship service park was up in arms at the hybrid unit failure on Ott Tänak’s Hyundai i20 N Rally1. He’d just taken the lead of Rally Sweden, only to be forced to park up by a red light displaying that his hybrid unit was unsafe.
Before Croatia, a hybrid retirement was treated the same as any other retirement. Not anymore. Drivers will still have to retire on the spot but the time added to a driver’s overall count for each stage missed has decreased from 10 minutes to two.
It’s a start. But it’s not enough for some. And it’s certainly not an open and shut rule change. There might be a new approach in place for Croatia but talks about how to remedy the situation haven’t stopped.
“You can still argue two minutes is still too much for something you are not responsible for, where you could have fully continued the rally, but I think it’s already an improvement and to be honest the topic is not closed,” Hyundai deputy team director Julien Moncet told DirtFish.
“We are still working with the FIA to find a solution. But it’s difficult to find the perfect solution because there are so many parameters we have to take into account, that anyone will always find something to complain about.
“If we reduced two minutes to one minute, some will say yes but in the meantime, we don’t use the tires and then you will continue with five tires – things like that is just one example. So it’s very tricky.
The only solution really to get rid of this problem is not to have any more of this [hybrid] issue, definitely. But two minutes is an improvement.
“Is it fair, is it enough? Maybe not enough but it’s difficult to find really the right solution. We are talking, not everyday but on a regular basis with the FIA and so on, and it’s really tricky to be honest. I’m open to suggestions!”
Tricky isn’t the half of it. Like Moncet himself said during Rally Sweden, changing the rules so that hybrid failures were treated differently to mechanically-induced retirements would be like opening Pandora’s box.
Well, it’s open now. And Moncet isn’t entirely sure what would happen if further changes were made to the regulations to neuter the impact of a hybrid system failure.
Both Moncet and others in the service park are stuck between a rock and a hard place – what’s in place might not be considered enough by some but subsequent rule changes might have unintended consequences.
“Every time you change the regulations you always have to think of all the other aspects,” Moncet said.
“I spoke about the tires, maybe I’m exaggerating but someone could deliberately put the system error [and retire in order to save tires for the powerstage], everything is possible at some point it’s motorsport.
“So as I say it’s for sure not enough, but it’s the best we’ve got up until now.”