While design concerns for the future common hybrid system could delay the WRC’s switch to hybrid, Ford M-Sport has openly raised the threat of a withdrawal from the discipline if the 2022 deadline is not met.
As the WRC discovers Croatia this weekend, Ford M-Sport has thrown a cold. Barely a month after having extended its commitment to the discipline until 2024, together with Toyota and Hyundai, the British team supported by the American manufacturer has clearly threatened to withdraw. Indeed, from 2022, the elite of the world rally championship will change its technical regulations with the introduction of a hybrid engine, the electric part of which will be standardized. Provided by the German company Compact Dynamics, this system has been sent to the three manufacturers to test it for its arrival in competition next year but a recall has recently been made, attributed to technical problems. An unexpected situation which suggests that the FIA could delay the transition to the WRC hybrid by at least a year, which was a strong argument to convince the three manufacturers to extend their involvement in the championship. On the sidelines of the start of Rally Croatia, Ford M-Sport manager Richard Millener agreed that the concerns known by Compact Dynamics were expected but that “it is useless to be too stressed on this subject”, arguing that “everyone is in the same boat”.
But when it came time to tackle a possible delay in the planning wanted by the FIA, the tone immediately changed. Assuring that “the new regulations will be better for spectators,” Richard Millener added that his team would withdraw from the WRC in such a case. “I read articles on people who said that we should postpone his arrival for a year, but no, not at all, says the head of Ford M-Sport in comments collected by the British magazine Autosport. ‘Cause firstly, we won’t be here if we are and secondly, at the end of the day you get better results when everyone’s been under pressure to build a good car, so I think it’s going to be another great championship next year. Considering Ford, we will only enter the competition next year if it is hybrid. The threat is clear but, for the moment, remains isolated to the only American-British structure. Nevertheless, it is serious enough for the FIA to look into this subject and do what is necessary, together with its supplier, to allow the switch from the WRC to the hybrid within the timeframe initially foreseen.