The race to master new technologies

When the motorsport landscape is changing so quickly, there are bound to be hiccups along the way.

Motorsport’s big push to towards hybrid and electric technology is not only the right thing to do, but is the only real way forward if the sport hopes to be sustainable into the future.

That said, some of the problems already being experienced across the globe are, if not unexpected, challenges that need to be overcome as quickly as possible.

The debut of the Extreme E off-road series last month generated worldwide interest from all forms of the media.

I had neighbours talking about “the Aussie girl Molly Taylor” after catching a glimpse of the action on the nightly news, and people who had absolutely no interest in motorsport were suddenly aware of this new-fangled, environmentally friendly series.

As great a spectacle as it was, the first Extreme E race had its problems. The dust issues that made the racing far less “wheel to wheel” than had been hoped were perhaps expected.

What probably wasn’t was the overheating batteries that hampered the performance of the big, heavy vehicles.

This meant that power had to be reduced from the advertised 500bph to a ‘workable’ 280bhp.

Running in the Saudi Arabian desert, this must not have come as a surprise to many, but in the championship’s first event, it was far from ideal.

It means organisers will be working overtime to ensure these sorts of technical issues don’t rear their head again.

The World Rally Championship is not immune to the challenges of new technologies either.

For 2022, WRC cars will be required to run a new hybrid system that is more environmentally friendly than the current combustion engine-only formula.

Ford and Toyota have already begun testing their cars, but when unknown problems with the hybrid kit from Compact Dynamics surfaced, all teams were instructed to stop testing immediately.

Nevertheless, the FIA don’t see this as a major issue, nor one that will hamper the introduction of the new formula.

“The introduction of the 2022 Rally 1 regulation will not be delayed,” FIA Rally Director, Yves Matton, commented.

There was also concern that a 12-month delay could actually become a reality, due to the recall of the hybrid kit, but Matton put aside such concerns.

“Of course, no matter how new the product, it faces challenges during development. For us, it’s like a part of the flow that occurs naturally in development, so we are working together.

” … there are eight months left until the start of the 2022 season, so it is in time,” he added.

Let’s hope so, because M-Sport has already said that unless the system is used in the WRC in 2022, they won’t be there.

If for no other reason, this is encouragement enough for the FIA and Compact Dynamics to get their stuff together – and quickly.

Peter Whitten

Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media.

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