FIA World Rally Championship’s commitment to a sustainable future

Wide-ranging details about the FIA World Rally Championship’s commitment to an exciting new sustainable future have been provided by series officials at a seminar in Munich on Monday (6 September).

The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), motorsport’s governing body, and WRC Promoter, which owns the championship’s commercial rights, revealed new information about the series’ previously-announced hybrid Rally1 cars, 100 per cent sustainable fuel and enhanced safety measures to be introduced in 2022.

FIA rally director Yves Matton, FIA technical director Xavier Mestelan Pinon, WRC Promoter managing director Jona Siebel and senior management from Hyundai Motorsport, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team and Toyota Gazoo Racing attended the event held around the IAA Mobility show in the German city.

Other guest speakers included FIA marketing director Alexandre Gueschir, as well as Martin Popilka, CEO at P1 Racing Fuels and Pierre-Olivier Calendini, Fuel Research Centre Director at Aramco, which announced their development partnership to supply a low carbon synthetic liquid fuel for competition cars in WRC.

Gueschir outlined the FIA’s responsibility in leading motorsport into a low carbon future to reduce its environmental impact and contribute to a greener planet.

Under its PurposeDriven movement, the FIA is taking an innovation-led approach to deliver sustainable motorsport. One goal is to reach carbon neutrality by 2030.

Siebel highlighted WRC Promoter’s commitment to support a sustainable future in both the world championship and the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC), for which it was recently awarded the commercial rights in a multi-year agreement beginning in 2022.

The WRC has fundamentally revised its technical regulations from next season. The top-tier Rally1 class for manufacturer teams will bring a substantial gain in crew safety, as well as more equality between competitors, due to a new design approach.

An even bigger revolution concerns the drivetrain, with hybrid technology mandatory for Rally1 cars. The plug-in hybrid unit including all necessary components and software will be common, with the potential for more freedom of development in 2024.

In the WRC’s first-ever hybrid powered cars, an electric motor works together with the proven 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine. Rally1 cars will have up to 100kW (134hp) of additional power available in certain situations.

The system also provides the opportunity to reduce emissions locally via full electric driving on road sections in built-up areas.

The unique Rally1 hybrid system has three principal modes: Full Electric Mode in which cars will have full electric range, Stage Start Mode when the system’s full power will be available, and Stage Mode in which teams and drivers will be able to create up to three personalised ‘maps’ to decide how to deploy the hybrid power.

Introducing hybrid has been a key part in ensuring Toyota, Hyundai and M-Sport Ford are fully committed to the WRC from 2022 to 2024.

All three teams are already testing their new cars, which will debut in competition at Rallye Monte-Carlo, the opening round of the 2022 season on 20 - 23 January.

Another milestone is the introduction of 100 per cent sustainable fuel, a first for any FIA World Championship. Part of the FIA’s race-to-road strategy is to implement sustainable energy sources across its motorsport disciplines to reduce CO₂ emissions.

The renewable fuel from P1 Racing Fuels is a blend of synthetic and bio-derived components. This green fuel will be mandatory to all top-tier competitors at WRC events. In its development, P1 Racing Fuels will collaborate with global energy and chemical experts Aramco on the formulation of advanced-generation biofuels and sustainable synthetic fuels derived from captured CO2 and low-carbon hydrogen.

Matton commented: “The Rally1 hybrid project is a major landmark in the development of rallying and underlines the FIA’s commitment to sustainability and technology laboratory.

“Next year’s Rally1 cars with hybrid plus sustainable fuel will make the FIA World Rally Championship more relevant and more attractive to car makers than ever before.”

Siebel said: “Rallying is one of the harshest environments a production-based car can experience. The WRC is a tremendous platform to develop and validate hybrid technology and renewable fuel for mass-produced vehicles, on real roads and under all circumstances.

“We are raising the bar to play our part in developing sustainable mobility. Road car users all over the world will ultimately benefit from what we learn by using both on rally stages.”