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The World Rally Championship's push towards embracing hybrid technology by 2022 has raised the eyebrows of rally fans around the world. Many are keen to see hybrid technology used, while other, more traditional rally fans, are nervous about the sport moving too far away from its roots. It must first be understood that hybrid doesn't just mean electric, so initial fears about not being able to hear the cars coming are probably ill-founded. But that doesn't mean that fans are going to embrace the technology as easily as the FIA perhaps hopes will be the case. "I’m completely in favour of taking into account the evolution of motoring for rallying," FIA President, Jean Todt, said recently.
"And clearly it is a big frustration for me not to see that rallying has engaged on at least some hybridisation and some new technology."
M-Sport team principal, Richard Millener, agrees. “There will be some form of hybrid (in 2022), that’s a must. It’s the only way some of the (current) manufacturers will stay in the sport, and it’s the only way for us to attract new manufacturers." Respected rallying journalist Martin Holmes, who has attended over 500 WRC events in a stellar career, says the move to hybrid is long overdue. "Jean Todt publicly promised WRC would embrace this as long ago as 2010 at a press conference in Portugal after he had become President," Holmes says.
"He said it would happen within five years. The move is running badly behind schedule.
"Every day more production cars use new technology. The further current rallying drifts away from its production car basis, the more it becomes another meaningless artificial sport." The new breed of World Rally Cars, introduced in 2017, have given the WRC a boost in excitement and spectator appeal, but it seems clear that unless the sport fully embraces technology changes, then the championship is on a hiding to nothing.
It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but then neither was the move from Group B to Group A in the mid 1980s.
The sport survived that, and with a clear plan in place - new regulations are set to be announced in 2019 - the World Rally Championship should have a long and exciting future ahead of it.
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