Hybrid Cars Fail to Impress at Rally Sweden

Although still in its early stages, the 2022 WRC season, and with the Rally Sweden, seems to be the most exciting for fans in decades. The most significant change in the season has been the introduction of the hybrid Rally1 class of cars. 

The gasoline-powered World Rally Cars of years ago are gone. Instead, this new generation hybrid car promises a more sustainable future. First, however, teams have to address a number of issues.

Hybrid Cars Offer Substantial Power

A 100kw electric motor drives the cars, while a turbocharged four-cylinder combustion engine of 1.6L powers them. The combustion engine is powered by biofuel, with the combined power output of both systems more than 500 horsepower.

These are the kind of numbers you haven’t seen since the WRC’s group B era. This means that the Rally1 cars are now the fastest ever to run in the WRC.

The rally headed to Umea, Sweden, this year in search of snowier, more consistent conditions. It featured the Hybrid Rally1 cars, which tackled snow and ice on 17 sectors. This event has a distance of 265 km.

Ford Cars Start Strong

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team had a fantastic start to the 2022 FIA World Rally Championships in Monte Carlo last month. The team then had to negotiate the cold conditions of Rally Sweden.

The M-Sport team completed successful pre-event testing before the race, despite a few weeks spent changing the cars to snow specification. It didn’t have any difficulties completing the race, but the time wasn’t impressive.

Unexpected Challenges In Rally Sweden

Drivers lost the 100kw hybrid unit they used for a loop, costing them time and the extra boost it provided. Ott Tanak, a Swedish driver, was the first to retire due to a component failure issue.

Tanak had won the fifth portion of the race to reduce the gap to 1.1 seconds, moving into second place. He was forced to retire from the road section, however, after an issue with his i20N Rally1 hybrid system caused it to display a red light.

Rally1 cars have a solid light in their windshields and side windows that indicate whether the car is safe to drive. Tanak lost hybrid power already after the system crashed midway through Kamsjon, following a landing impact. His car was still drivable, but he was forced to stop because the red light required competitors to retire as soon as possible, per FIA regulations.

More Testing, Trials Needed

Sweden’s temperatures are likely to be among the coldest in the World Rally Championship season. Compact Dynamics chief Oliver Blamberger has previously spoken out about the challenges of keeping its battery technology working in extreme conditions.

He was determined to discredit any notion that Tanak’s car had been damaged by climatde conditions. It’s unlikely that temperatures were to blame. However, the possible cause of the issue, according to Tanak, is something that any rally car should be able to handle. The Hyundai driver had indicated that it was likely due to a bump in a road.

Blamberger stressed that the kit had withstood much higher-energy impacts in both testings and during the Monte Carlo Rally, meaning that there is something else going on. More testing of hybrid cars is needed.

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