WRC developing experimental propulsion class

Rallying’s top tier is currently in the process of formulating its immediate and long term regulations, with propulsion a key topic for discussion.

Last year the WRC introduced a move to hybrid power, and became the first FIA world championship to use 100% sustainable fuel, through its Rally1 regulations, which will remain in place until the end of 2024.

It is widely expected that these regulations will continue into 2025, albeit tweaked to include an expanded use of the hybrid power unit on events, as revealed earlier this week. 

Beyond 2025 the picture is unclear as the automotive industry continues to evaluate its future direction. Full electric, hydrogen and synthetic fuels are all methods up for discussion that could form the base for rallying in the future.

Last year the FIA added a new full electric tier to the rally pyramid in Rally5e, which allows road-going EV vehicles to be converted to rally cars. Opel, understood to be among a group of manufacturers keen to join the WRC in the future, has already developed a full electric rally car with its Corsa-e Rally.

Likewise, Toyota has produced a hydrogen powered version of GR Yaris rally car that made its public debut at Rally Belgium last year.

The WRC is expected to announce further details of its vision for the future at Rally Portugal in May which could include a new platform to allow alternative power methods to be developed within the championship.

While details of the class and its launch remain limited at this stage, it may follow a similar concept as seen at the Le Mans 24 Hours through its Garage 56 initiative.

“There will be more released around Portugal time around the new technical evolution [beyond 2025] and about having a demonstration class to allow experimental propulsion systems within the WRC, to provide that as a platform of experimentation and development and we are absolutely supportive of that and that will happen,” WRC event director Simon Larkin told Autosport.

Toyota Yaris H2

Toyota Yaris H2

Photo by: Toyota Racing

News of the demonstration class arrives following the WRC’s inaugural Innovation Forum hosted at last week’s season opener in Monte Carlo.

The event provided a platform to discuss sustainable mobility which brought identities from the automotive industry and rally together.

Among the guest speakers was Patrice Ratti, former President of Renault Sports Cars, who believes there will be several pathways for the future.

“Motorsport has always played a big role in developing future technologies, today even more than before,” said Ratti.

«It is very important – as is, I think, the strategy from the FIA to have different technologies in different championships.

“In WRC you have hybrid and renewable fuels. I think that is very good because we are going to see in real conditions how these fuels and technologies will perform. I think that, overall, it is a great strategy

“Nobody can say what will be the technology of the future and my bet is we will need several technologies.”

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem says making a decision on rallying’s future method of propulsion shouldn’t be rushed.

“In rallying I don’t think we should jump and be emotional about it,” said Ben Sulayem.

“We should take our time because if we make a mistake it will be a big mistake. Then I think it will not be easy to make a U-turn and come back to our right track.

“Really we should take the right turn but not be slow as we are in a very dynamic sport, so we have to act fast but be correct.”

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