The FIA, motorsport’s governing body, has revealed that from 2022 the World Rally Championship (WRC) will adopt hybrid technology for its latest generation of cars.
The long-awaited decision was confirmed yesterday by the World Motorsport Council, headed by FIA President Jean Todt, himself a former rally co-driver.
Initially, teams competing in the WRC will use shared hybrid components and software. If the technology proves successful, there is scope to allow manufacturers greater freedom to develop their own systems from 2024. These regulations will remain in place until the end of the 2026 season.
According to a statement released by the FIA, the aim of the technology is to allow the cars to run silently on electric power in cities, as well as giving them increased power to tackle the special stages.
Another notable change approved by the FIA is the loosening of restrictions over the cars’ size by allowing for “scaling of the body within prescribed limits,” paving the way for manufacturers to compete with larger models than the current Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Citroen C3 and Hyundai i20.
Also announced was that from 2021, in a bid to cut costs, the WRC will use a single tyre supplier. However, this is unlikely to have a significant impact on the competition, with Michelin having been the sole supplier since the 2018 season after its only rival DMAK pulled out.
Finally, speculation is likely to continue over the shape of the 2020 WRC calendar, as a final decision has been delayed until the end of June 2019. Intriguingly, the FIA’s statement added that in the meantime “it will consider the potential rotation of events.” This is consistent with reports that Australia’s round of the WRC will make a temporary switch to New Zealand for 2020, while Great Britain’s round of the championship could also move from Wales to Northern Ireland next year.
The switch to hybrid rally cars was an inevitable and necessary step to secure the WRC’s future, with manufactures hinting strongly that their participation in the championship depends on the transition to hybrid power. This decision helps ensure that rallying remains at the forefront of the latest automotive technology and preserves a clear link to the manufacturers’ road cars.
Although the sport can hardly be described as environmentally friendly, this latest step also allows key stakeholders to head off criticism that it has failed to move with the times. As battery technology improves, the sport may not be able to resist for long what many fans fear, namely the switch to full electric rally cars. At least with these new regulations, the sound of engines roaring through the forests will last a little longer.