WRC 2022 Season Preview


January 12, 2022

By Chris Hosie

Image credit: WRC.com

Last Year’s WRC title fight went down to the wire. Seeing the final World title for Seb Ogier. This year, the series is about to get a lot more electrifying.

 The 2021 World rally championship was, undoubtably, one of the most hotly contested in the history of the championship. This year promises to be much the same and at the same time to have more of an “unknown territory” element than that of 2020.

The reason for this is due to a new generation of World rally cars. The cars now are known as Rally1, the FIA’s premier rally car category and specification. These cars replace the iconic and institutional WRC cars, especially, the Group B like 2017 spec cars. The previous spec cars are still permitted. But, according to a conversation I had with WRC Commentator Jon Desborough,  they will be used by privateer teams. However seeing how privateers vanished in the 2017 spec era, due to certain regulatory obligations that privateers had to be based and registered with factory teams, its still a 50/50 proposition.

The new cars are very different from their predecessors. One major change is the type of fuel the cars use. It is now a synthetic type which is made to be renewable and sustainable. Basically, eco-friendly. The engines are still 380 HP turbo engines, but now, they have the added advantage of being Hybrid spec. Specifically, a Plug-In Hybrid type of engine similar to the types of engines in all modern day cars that people are buying a great deal more of. They also utilize an Boost system. Which, when activated, provides 10 seconds of extra energy and power to the car. A lot like KERS or Fan Boost that you get In Formula E or Formula 1. MR Desborough did say to me that its not clear how teams and drivers will use this fancy function. But as they say in rallying, “Always expect the unexpected”.

The cars also have AISC (Artificial Intelligence Safety Cameras). These are designed to monitor the stage for safety hazards, that many drivers can’t detect. I’m not gonna lie. I don’t exactly know what the heck this is or how this will enhance driver and spectator safety. Especially when you consider cars like this can travel between 130-150 MPH. but it sounds cool. Like something from a Netflix Original Sci-Fi show. So, on that basis, I’m very keen on it and I’m sure a lot of others are too.   

The gear boxes are different this year. Instead of being the traditional six speed, it’s now 5 speed. But when you consider the boost systems that these cars have, it’s not all bad. The boost system has three options for the drivers to choose from and three option to choose on engine energy recuperation.

That’s the cars and the technicalities sorted. Now lets meet the runners and riders for the 2022 WRC season. Toyota Gazoo Racing are the team to beat. Last year they won both the drivers and manufacturers titles. Jari Matti-Latvala is the teams leader and he will be hoping for another manufacturers crown for the Japanese mark. They will compete using the new Toyota Yaris Rally1.

Toyotas Driver line up sees Welshman Elfyn Evans as the top gun for drivers title glory. The man from the Valleys will be keen to win his first title, after loosing out to Ogier 2 years on the bounce. Speaking of the illustrious Frenchmen, he may be retired, but he is doing a limited season with the Japanese team. In fact, MR Desborough said to me, that due to the Frenchman’s amazing adaptability with new cars. He might win another title despite his limited schedule. Stranger things have happened before in motorsport.

Other drivers in the Toyota Squad are Finland’s Kalle Rovanpera and Esapekka Lappi. Also in the team is Japanese sensation Takamoto Katsuta. He’s not in the main team this season, but instead, in the new Toyota Next Generation team.

M-Sport Ford will compete with Britain’s Gus Greensmith and France’s Adrien Fourmaux. They are joined by Irishmen Craig Breen who will compete in his first full WRC season since 2018. Another driver doing a limited schedule and its another, all conquering, Frenchman. 9 time world champion, Sebastian Loeb, joins the Cumbria based team for this season.

They will be using the new Ford Puma Rally1 car. The first car released to the public at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2021 and replaces the trusty Fiesta.

Finally, Hyundai Shell Mobis, feature Ott Tanak and Thierry Neuville in their lineup. The two superstars joined by young gun, Oliver Solberg. The Norwegian making his first full season debut in the sports top level. Dani Sordo completes the squad. The Spanish driver, once again, will make appearances on the grey stuff. The team utilizing the Rally1 version of their proven I20N.

The season takes place over 13 rallies and across 4 continents. Providing the current global climate doesn’t cause issues. Kenya is once again back on the map. Japan and New Zealand should, Hopefully, make their much anticipated and welcomed return. Croatia is back as an official round of the season also.

Its not just all change in the WRC in terms of cars. Its also change in the Junior. The traditional production based (Rally4) Ford Fiestas are gone. Replaced by the new Rally3 spec cars. Nonetheless, this season, will be another nail bitter for the JWRC stars.

WRC2 is also going to be a battle to watch. Toksport hoping to get another drivers title under their belts. One driver hoping for success with the team is Britain’s Chris Ingram. The Former BRC star and the 2017 ERC Junior champion and ERC 2019 overall champion, will be a true star to watch.   

WRC3 is also set to be a close title tussle. With the best privateers and young hopefuls eager to make a name in this incredibly competitive development series.

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