World Rally Championship drivers and teams are pushing the FIA for a solution after crews suffered what series leader Kalle Rovanperä described as ‘unsafe’ cockpit temperatures at last week’s Rally Portugal
The problem centers around the position of the exhausts on the new-for-2022 Rally1 machines which, instead of being centralized with an exhaust tunnel, is situated on the right-hand-side of the vehicles – right where the co-driver sits.
Hyundai Motorsport deputy team principal Julian Moncet said the problems is so bad, he fears the crews may not be able to complete Safari Rally stages if the weather is hot in Kenya.
The issue was identified during Hyundai’s mock-rally test of its i20 N Rally1 last October although it hadn’t really reared its head this season until Portugal where temperatures were warmer than Monte Carlo, Sweden or Croatia.
But there’s growing concern that the problem is only going to get worse on upcoming rallies like Sardinia and the Safari where the temperature will be even hotter than in Portugal.
In Portugal the heat exhaustion was particularly severe on Friday but also on Saturday, with Hyundai’s Dani Sordo commenting that “everybody is complaining” about it and he was feeling “proper f****”.
“Physically I was able to do my job, but it was not comfortable at all,” M-Sport driver Craig Breen told DirtFish.
“Honestly it was really bad. I had a couple of times where I thought I had a puncture but actually it was Paul’s boots melting on the floor. I could smell it melting, on Amarante yesterday he was having to lift his feet off the ground a few times to make sure he wasn’t getting burned so it’s not so nice.”
Thierry Neuville agreed: “I mean we have been quite critical about that from the beginning since we were driving those cars,” he told DirtFish.
“And especially the co-drivers because they’re sitting right next to the exhaust line going through the cockpit. So it makes it very, very warm clearly. And I think we’ve seen Ott [Tänak] struggling on Friday midday. We’ve seen my co driver [Martijn Wydaeghe] struggling on Friday afternoon. So there is some serious concern. Definitely.
“But it has been mentioned a couple of times before we are asking since a couple of years back already the film on the windows to already try get rid of this burning hot sun when you’re standing still and it’s already 65, 70 degrees in the cockpit and still the sun is going into your cockpit it makes it even more crazy.” Neuville, who was often quite vocal about his skepticism over the Rally1 regulations last year, added.
Rovanperä believes it would be a safety concern if action was not taken quickly.
“To be honest it’s too hot in the car,” he told DirtFish.
“That’s something I think the teams and FIA should take care [of], to watch or do some regulations for that because when you have 50, 60 degrees in the car it’s not really safe anymore.
“Your brain is not really working normally and even though you are physically you are in a good condition, it doesn’t mean it is still safe to be in the car anymore. It’s a bit too hot.”
Moncet said the teams are already “talking on this topic” with the FIA, but the consensus is that action needs to happen sooner rather than later.
He told DirtFish: “Yeah it’s a concern. We knew this issue since the beginning of these cars, we had reported already that it’s very hot in the cockpit. Now we got the proof really in Portugal which in the end was really not that hot, so it’s really a concern for Sardinia.
“For Kenya you can imagine, I’m not even sure they will be able to finish a stage, some of them. It’s really a concern.
“At the moment the regulation is still new and it’s difficult to find some tricks to sort out this problem because it’s linked to the configuration of the Rally1, the exhaust on the side, but definitely it’s something we have to tackle immediately with the FIA.
DirtFish has contacted the FIA for a response.