According to the World Automobile Federation (FIA), all manufacturers are ready for the new Rally1 era in the World Rally Championship (WRC) with hybrid cars. Hyundai recently unwound a complete rally simulation in front of the FIA officials and collected important data for the new generation of vehicles. However, minor problems also came to light.
Rally Director Yves Matton and Technical Director Jerome Touquet were part of the small FIA team that accompanied Hyundai’s three-day test. The Koreans simulated a full rally in northern Italy at the end of October and tested the limits of the new Rally1 hybrid car.
Toyota, Hyundai and M-Sport with Ford have already tested the cars for the 2022 WRC season to prepare for the races in the new era. However, Hyundai was the first manufacturer to simulate a full rally. This included special stages, sections on the road, zones in which only electric drive is allowed, and the service park.
Focus on performance and durability
A total of 1,485 kilometers was covered in Hyundai’s new Rally1 car. The i20 is to be further tested and modified before the new season starts on January 20-23 in Monte Carlo. During the test, the team identified some teething troubles with the new technology, but since the car crossed the finish line, Matton is convinced that the brands are ready for the 2022 season.
According to Matton, the performance and durability of the new Rally1 cars still need to be fine-tuned before the first event of the coming season is on the agenda. He told Motorsport-Total.com: “It seems like all manufacturers are doing well. But it is always difficult to say where they stand if you are not deeply and internally integrated into the work.”
Matton is pleased that Hyundai got through the three days without a major problem and covered a full rally distance. “Monte Carlo will be the first step and then we will continuously improve the cars,” said the FIA rally boss. “We want to improve the performance and durability of the cars and we have no doubt that the cars will give us an interesting rally in Monte Carlo.”
Identified teething troubles
Matton does not expect any major changes to the current generation of vehicles at the special stages, but in the future it will be possible to drive through the streets of the venues without noise. The brands are also given the opportunity to present hybrid cars that are available in the manufacturers’ salesrooms.
However, the test also revealed some problem areas in the Rally1 cars: There is a problem switching the vehicle from fully electric mode back to combustion mode. Thierry Neuville has made the FIA aware of this problem. The Belgian is a critic of the new cars, but admits that they may be safer than the current WRC vehicles.
While the development of the cars seems to be on the right track, Neuville does not feel ready to hunt for points in Monte Carlo. He still needs more test kilometers to get used to the new vehicles. He says, “I think we’re stuck at halftime right now.”
Security vs. Comfort
Another point of discussion is the seating position of the co-pilots. In the new car, the co-pilots sit much higher, which should contribute to their safety. Studies have shown that this higher seating position is significantly safer for a racing driver than the current solution – but only at the expense of comfort.
Talks were therefore held between the FIA and the co-drivers at the Rally Spain in order to develop a good solution. Matton says: “We want to find the best compromise with your feedback. It’s always a tradeoff between comfort and safety. We’ll certainly include your interesting feedback.”