Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Tommi Makinen admitted being disappointed by the FIA debate about the possibility that they could base the 2022 Hybridization of World Rally Cars on an R5. Tommi’s team has been testing around the new Yaris WRC 2021 on snow and gravel, as it hoped that future regulations would be developed based on current cars. However, the adoption of the R5 concept would force Toyota to build and develop a completely new car.
A little over a week ago, the FIA, the WRC teams and the championship promoter held the first meeting of a series of debates to define what type of thermal engine will be installed in the 2022 vehicles. According to DirtFish, there is an incompatibility between Toyota, interested in maintaining the current pattern, and Hyundai and M-Sport teams are inclined to choose a Rally 2 (R5) model.
The Federation seeks to reduce WRC costs to 35%. However, the approval of the standards will require the commitment of at least two manufacturers. The deadline was postponed until the end of May or the beginning of June.
While awaiting the evolution of future technical regulations, Toyota has unveiled and started rehearsing with its new Yaris WRC 2021. Juho Hanninen has conducted it in early February in Finland, on snow, and then continued with a second test the week passed in Spain, where the vehicle tested on gravel. In short, the team has sought to take advantage of two of the last two tests prior to the rallies in Sweden and Mexico to test the model to be used only in 2021.
But why anticipate these development trials at this time? At the same time, why bet on a vehicle that a priori would be used only for one season before the regulatory change? The reason is simple and has been publicly expressed by Tommi Makinen in an interview with AutoHebdo France: the team was sure that the 2022 regulations would be based on the current WRC. Thus, the brand could reuse part of the Yaris WRC 2021 for the hybrid era car.
In fact, the team’s position is backed by old statements by the director of the FIA Rally Commission, Yves Matton. At the end of last year, the Belgian had assured Rallye Magazin that the mission of the Federation was not aimed at cheaper World Rally Cars, but rather to keep the current car costs under control. Even Matton emphasized that popular and economic ideas (alluding to the R5) were not suitable for an elite championship like the WRC.
But a few months later, the director of the Rally Commission changed his position. In an interview with DirtFish, he explained that the World Rally Car for 2022 points to a more economical base of Rally2 (R5) vehicles, with numerous homologated parts and a much more austere concept.
This has basically broken with the pattern of Toyota, a team that hoped to continue with the guidelines of current cars. The reason that generates the greatest concern about this unexpected turn is that the brand does not have any previous R5 model nor in the development phase. A situation of such magnitude can put Toyota at a great disadvantage against Hyundai Motorsport and M-Sport, two key structures in the rally customer racing vehicle market.
Regarding this unexpected turn, Makinen could not hide his disappointment. “We have to see how future regulations will evolve. Initially, with what the World Council had decided, it did not seem that we had many changes to make between the 2021 and the 2022 car. In fact, we expected to take the Yaris WRC 2021 as the basis for developing the 2022 car, ”Makinen told AutoHebdo France.
“But now it seems that there are new discussions about it and that does not give us a good impression. We are really very disappointed, ” added the Finn. “It seemed that the regulations of 2022 were going to be very similar to those of 2021, except for the installation of batteries and the system. That would only have required us to modify a few parts of the car. But now we are in a mystery, ” said the director of Toyota Gazoo Racing to graph his confusion.
“The issue of regulations has been reopened and we have no idea if it will be good or not. Really, I have no idea what that means. However, what I do know is that we have a very short time frame to develop a completely new WRC by 2022, ” said Tommi Makinen.
“For example, the Yaris WRC 2021 shares many elements and common areas with the current model. However, building it was something that took us a long time. If we were to build a completely new WRC, I think we would need to get even more resources and I don’t know where we could find them, ”he said in Finnish in reference to the Toyota Gazoo Racing budget, which today is facing two costly regulatory changes in its WRC and WEC programs.
To put into context the concern of the Tommi Makinen team, the director of the Rally Commission, Yves Matton, already anticipated in DirtFish that the final approval of the 2022 regulations will require the commitment of two manufacturers. At the same time, the American media also reported that M-Sport and Hyundai Motorsport want future Rally WRC to be based on the current R5.
With this position, it is clear that the choice of both companies in the future is not only linked to their current technical skills with the R5. Also, we must bear in mind that both M-Sport and Hyundai are two of the five builders that nourish the current sales market for rally client cars internationally.
If the FIA effectively receives the endorsement of the South Korean manufacturer and the British team, future regulations will have to be definitively approved with the guidelines of R5 vehicles. This could put Toyota in a highly compromised position, as it would be forced to have to build another new vehicle in addition to the already developed Yaris WRC 2021. And all this in a period of just two years …