The World Rally Championship’s highest class will move to incorporate hybrid electric drive in two seasons time. The rule change will initially feature what the rulemakers are calling a “supplementary hybrid system” with spec components and software as a transitional stage from 2022 to 2025. Following that, regulations will open up for more electric power assist options.
The current aim of the move to hybrid is to provide the cars an ability to run in full EV while driving through transit stages through cities, and provide an as-yet-undefined power boost on special stages.
The best part of all of this, in my opinion, is that the car can run in full EV for at least some amount of time. That means it could potentially save a car from retirement by running back to the paddock on EV power to fix a blown turbo or mangled transmission or something. More cars in the mix are always good.
With many racing series taking on hybrid power, including IMSA, IndyCar, and potentially even NASCAR, it’s not surprising that manufacturers have been putting pressure on WRC to include hybrid electric in its power mix. In fact, Citroen allegedly threatened to leave the series altogether without a path to hybrid.
Personally, I’m excited to see more hybrid race cars coming to fruition. Electric boost is the future of racing. That said, this seems to be nothing more than a half measure to me, and somewhat disappointing. These manufacturers in WRC are capable of producing a strong EV unit, and WRC should not have half-assed this roll out. Hybrids first showed up at Le Mans two decades ago, and have been dominating proceedings for the latter half of that. Surely WRC could have dove in with both feet and really made a splash.
Other new regulations include a reduction in costs by freezing tire development from 2021 through 2024, which will prevent an expensive tire war. There is also a provision to allow manufacturers to “scale” a body down to within the prescribed limits of WRC, allowing the marketing benefit of WRC to work with larger cars. As superminis like the Fiesta, Yaris, and i20 fall out of favor with customers, manufacturers likely want to market their more popular mid-sized cars.
The full 2020 WRC calendar decision was deferred for another two weeks, and will be announced later in June.