After seeing the 2020 World Rally Championship (WRC) season heavily impacted by Covid-19, 2021 was all about getting back on track.
Now the premier off-road world championship returns to Monte-Carlo this weekend to kick off the highly anticipated 2022 season.
Covid Challenges and Calendar
After saving seven rallies in 2020, the WRC Promoter Series organizer has managed to stage a total of 12 events across Europe and Africa during the 2021 campaign.
Rallies in Sweden, Chile and Japan were originally planned but were later scrapped due to challenges caused by the pandemic. Meanwhile, Rally GB, which was due to move from Wales to Northern Ireland, was canceled as financial terms could not be agreed.
Despite these setbacks, Belgium’s Ypres Rally debuted in mid-August, while the series also returned to Greece in September, marking its first event in the country for eight years.
“It was a matter of conversation, learning about the needs of the organisers, with the FIA [International Automobile Federation] and manufacturers,” said Peter Thul, Senior Director of Sport at WRC Promoter. Sports car.
“We turned over the calendar, it was turned upside down, to see where we could go and under what conditions we could go.”
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the WRC still managed to execute a considerable schedule
The Championship has also relied on its over-the-top (OTT) streaming service, WRC+, to connect with fans who have been unable to make it to rallies due to pandemic restrictions in place. The platform streams all the rallies live, in addition to behind-the-scenes content and exclusive interviews.
“If someone had told me a year ago that Rallye Monte-Carlo would be off limits to spectators and everyone had to stay home, I wouldn’t think that was possible – but it is. happened,” Thul said in his interview with Autosport. “It makes us proud of the cooperation between the FIA, promoters, event organizers and fans.”
The WRC has released a 13-round schedule for the upcoming 2022 season, which is expected to include the series’ first event in New Zealand since 2012. Rally Sweden and Japan are also set to return, but there is no room for Mexico or Chile, despite both having hosting contracts with WRC Promoter.
There is, however, an August slot on the calendar that must be filled, with Motorsport.com signaling that the initial plan for a rally in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is “no longer viable” for 2022.
The hybrid switch at the heart of the 2022 sustainability goals
The 2022 WRC season is set to usher in significant lasting change, which manufacturers Hyundai, M-Sport Ford and Toyota have all signed on to.
The championship has introduced new technical regulations, known as “Rally1”, which will bring hybrid drivetrains to the series for the first time. The hybrid system, as well as its software, will remain standardized for the next three years in order to reduce costs. All cars will also be equipped with a 100 kW hybrid control unit designed by Compact Dynamics.
The WRC hopes the new regulations will help the series reduce its carbon footprint as it seeks to align with the FIA’s goal of achieving net zero carbon over the next decade.
“We see the WRC as an area of innovation,” says Thul, speaking now to BlackBook Motorsport. “Therefore, developing sustainable technologies is an attitude we have. It’s not because we have to do it, we want to do it. We want to be part of the solution and not be a problem.
“Everything you see we do is with the aim of reducing our footprint as much as possible.”
Thul believes the WRC’s major changes embody the series’ desire to be open-minded, which it may well need this year if the calendar is again impacted by Covid-19.
But with the first rally of the season due to start this weekend in iconic Monte Carlo, Thul suggests there’s no challenge the WRC won’t be prepared for, especially when it comes to sustainability.
“We will always stay open-minded, we won’t say ‘we don’t do this, we don’t do that’,” he said.
“We have to meet all the challenges presented to us by society and by regulations. If we have a chance to develop this in motorsport and the automotive industry, then we can play an important role in society.
Either way, the WRC hopes to deliver the kind of dramatic and unpredictable racing its fans have been missing during the winter break.
Last season: 2nd
President: Scott No
Team Leader (acting): Scott No
Base: Alzenau, Germany
The partners: Systems Hanon, Innoclean, Shell, Pirelli, OMP Racing
What they did : Following the departure of Andrea Adamo, Hyundai Motorsport enters the 2022 season without a permanent team principal. Instead, Scott Noh will take over as team manager in the interim. Despite the uncertain management situation heading into the new season, Hyundai Motorsport is aiming for the championship crown in 2022, after losing to rivals Toyota Gazoo Racing.
The team was the first to unveil its all-new 2022 hybrid vehicle, the i20N. The car has undergone rigorous testing since May 2021 to prepare for the challenges ahead.
“From a business perspective, it is important for Hyundai to be associated with on-road technology; the WRC’s move to hybrid brings together the brand’s motorsport and road car businesses,” Noh said.
Hyundai will aim for the championship crown in 2022 after losing to Toyota
Last season: 3rd
General director: Malcolm Wilson
Leader : Richard Miller
Base: Cumbria, Great Britain
Title Partners: Ford, MS-RT
The partners: Castrol, Pirelli, Red Bull, Sparco, OZ Racing, Safety Culture, Lazer, Stilo, Ford Trucks, FanatecEndless, Audes, Eibach, SWP, HIAB, Trafalgar, Ifor Williams trailers, Reiger suspension, NGK candles
What they did : M-Sport Ford has appointed a new Technical Director, Chris Williams, who will oversee all current and future engineering projects within the company.
Additionally, the 2022 season marks a fresh start for the M-Sport Ford team, as the team bids farewell to its Fiesta in favor of a new hybrid-powered Puma car.
Ahead of the new season, M-Sport also revealed a technical partnership with Fanatec to develop steering wheels for the team’s 2022 challenger.
M-Sport Ford has said goodbye to its Fiesta in exchange for a Puma for 2022
Toyota Gazoo Racing
Last season: 1st
Leader : Jari-Matti Latvala
Base: Jyvaskyla, Finland
The partners: DMG Mori, Panasonic, Denso, Kinto, Tamadic, Nisula, Japan Airlines, JTB, CCI Corporation, Asahi Kasei, IEC, Nisula Forest, Otsuka Pharmaceutical, Stilo, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Company, Endless Advance, PIAA Corporation, Pirelli, OMP Racing, Sumitomo Wiring Systems, Kyoto Tool, Schroth Racing
What they did : After clinching the title in 2021, Toyota Gazoo Racing will be looking forward to the start of the 2022 season, when the WRC’s Rally1 category will see teams race with hybrid technology for the first time.
Additionally, Toyota Gazoo Racing will continue its driver development initiatives in Japan. The team also introduced a new secondary squad for 2022, consisting of Takamoto Katsuta and Aaron Johnston.
Despite the challenges and uncertainties ahead, Toyota Gazoo Racing aims to win three championships (driver, co-driver and constructor) for the second consecutive year.
Toyota has won all three championships available in 2021
Pirelli, TW Steel, Asahi Kasei, Wolf Lubricants, Forum8Fanatec
Atlantis, Impex, Innovationist, Nacon, Playseat, Pro Grade Digital
Global: WRC+, Red Bull TV
South Africa: SABC
Sub-Saharan Africa: Canal+
Japan: J Sports, NHK, TV Asahi
New Zealand: Spark
Austria: Servus TV, Sport1
Croatia: Sports Arena
Cyprus: Vision Cyta
Czech Republic: Ceska TV, O2
Finland: YLE, MTV3
Greece: Cosmote TV
Italy: Sky Italy
Netherlands: Ziggo Sports
Norway: Eurosport / Max
Portugal: Sports TV
Romania: Romania Telekom
Serbia: Sports Arena
Spain: RTVE, TV3
UK: BT Sport, ITV4
Ukraine: The first car chain
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