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Future regulations concerning World Rally Cars will be discussed by the FIA and WRC stakeholders in Geneva on Tuesday, including the potential for the use of alternative energy sources.
The WRC is just one season into its current five-year homologation cycle, but powerbrokers are keen to explore future technical regulations for the premier class of car.
FIA president Jean Todt wants the WRC to embrace alternative technology including hybrid or full electric power, but as a former competitor and team principal is aware of the limitations of using such technologies in rallying.
“Today there is no manufacturer supplying a car which can drive 200 kilometres on rally roads at rally speeds [and] can have a quick [electrical] recharge,” said Todt.
“At the moment, it’s completely excluded to think of having WRC with an electric car.
“It’s very important to have different categories with different ways of optimising new technologies.
“It’s clear we need to introduce more environmentally friendly technology in WRC.
“Motor racing is not only a show, it needs to be a laboratory for new technology and safety.
“It would make the investment for manufacturers more justified than just for racing.
“We need to introduce some hybrid technology, clearly, yes. The world is changing, motor industry is changing, racing is changing.”
WRC events pose questions about the suitability of hybrid or full electric power, as cars regularly run loops of more than 100 miles – with half of that distance competing in ‘stage’ mode – before returning to service.
One senior team member said there could be an opportunity for an interim response before introducing new technologies by tweaking current technical regulations.
“We all know we have to change things, but is there the need to rush to electric or hybrid?” said the source.
“There are things we can do really quite quickly with the current regulations: cutting the number of cylinders used on liaison sections, that kind of thing.
“The meeting in Geneva will be interesting and certainly it’s going to help shape a future.”
FIA rally director Yves Matton would not be drawn on the possible outcome of this week’s discussions, telling Autosport: “We are working very closely with the manufacturers about the evolution of the WRC car, both in the medium and long-term.
“It is too early to discuss any outcomes, but it is important their future marketing objectives are taken into consideration.”
M-Sport has already begun work on an electric rally car capable of competing on a day-long, national-level event and former WRC rival Prodrive is also exploring possibilities.
Prodrive’s technical director David Lapworth told Autosport: “Our first hybrid electric project was in 2004 with road car stuff.
“We’ve got an electronic team, we’ve developed our own DC-to-DC converter, we’ve got our own software guys; we’ve just done a development for Ford on a hybrid commercial vehicle.
“We haven’t done an out-and-out racing project, but we have the expertise to take us in that direction.”