Since its maiden debut in 2014 in Formula 1, the hybrid technology has finally reached the WRC. Did we expect the electric to enter our beloved rally cars competition? Did we want to see it or we were just hoping this day would never happen.
Well, motorists friends, the day has come and this article talks about our overview on what we believe will be the impact on the car performance.
We say goodbye to the fuel fossil fuel powered 380bhp WRC+ beasts and we welcome the WRC Rally 1 Cars.
In facts, this week, we will assist at the very first WRC Championship Race with hybrid power units technology.
Championship winner Toyota Gazoo Racing alongside Hyundai motorsport and M-Sport (Ford) will line up at the famous and insidious Montecarlo Rally with brand new cars and only few hundred miles of testing on their shoulders.
What we know
Cars will be fitted with the same engine size from previous generation cars in combination with an electric engine. The two main changing points are the introduction of biofuel instead of 100% petrol and the more obvious electric power. Based on the official WRC launch last weekend, the cars will then have the 380 bhp plus an additional 130, 140 bhp from the additional engine, for a total of 510, 520 bhp.
In order to fit the engine, cars required some challenge to ensure car balance and safety, which resulted in weight increase of about 100kg, hence about 1260kg.
As per regulation, without going into many boring details, We know that cars will run full electric on transfer mode (or during some part of the transfer), plus the engine will be able to be deployed during stage mode.
SO, when will the electric engine be actually useful?
Contrarily from the F1, where most of us struggle to see the real fun factor, We believe the electric will play different in WRC. We have thought on few main situations:
If we think about rally stage sections like Mexico, where normal engine suffers from lack of oxygen, due to the altitude, the electric engine will be able to cover that missing engine performance gap, making the car suffer less.
Hairpin exits: especially gravel uphill hairpin turns require massive effort to the engine and clutch. Our expectation is that cars will have more torque during corner exit, making cars look even faster
Power stage: in order to get the extra points on the power stages, some of the drivers will try to re-generate as much battery energy as possible to deploy all 500 bhp, leaving just enough energy to reach the paddox!
SO, when will the battery be more of a liability to the car?
Drivers will have to calculate carefully and drive in order to maintain energy, same way or even more carefully than what they do with tire management. In some stages, we expect to see drivers, coasting or breaking in places where they normally would go flat out. Rally events like Finland and other with long straights and fast speed are likely to face this situation.
Asphalt stages: cars are heavier, due to the additional engine, which will be a challenge to tires and breaks. We expect stages like Croatia and Spain to be quite a big ask for the drivers’ driving style, in order to reach the end of the stages competitively.
Stage transfers: mainly long transfers can be tricky for cars, especially after having used most of the battery on the stage, which could cause delays to their next stage. It would be very frustrating for drivers and spectators to loose a rally when they were not racing. This may require great battery management.
In the end, our expectations of this championships are filled with mixed factors. However, the cars look fantastic, they sound amazing on stage and they are very very fast. We cannot wait to see the action starting this week.