Star drivers and pioneering new hybrid cars delivered a high-voltage introduction to the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship in Austria on Saturday evening.
The WRC’s ground-breaking new-generation of Rally1 cars from the three manufacturers gathered for the first time in Salzburg’s landmark Hangar-7 as the 2022 season was launched five days before the opening round at Rallye Monte-Carlo (20 – 23 January).
In the presence of FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, reigning champions Toyota Gazoo Racing, Hyundai Motorsport and M-Sport Ford revealed their stunning all-new cars which will compete across 13 rounds on four continents.
Among those attending were Toyota’s 2021 championship runner-up Elfyn Evans and team-mate Kalle Rovanperä, who became the youngest WRC rally winner in history last season.
Also present were Hyundai lead drivers Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak. New M-Sport Ford signing Craig Breen appeared alongside the team’s hotly-tipped youngster, Adrien Fourmaux.
In the championship’s 50th season, the WRC will undergo major environmental changes as new FIA technical regulations drive the series towards a more sustainable future.
Plug-in hybrid-powered cars built around an upgraded safety cell chassis, 100 per cent fossil-free fuel and sustainable energy supplies are key to the sport’s commitment to a greener future.
The new hybrid challengers blend a 100kW electric motor with a competition-proven 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which has powered the sport’s top-tier cars since 2011.
The package raises peak performance levels to more than 500hp whilst also reducing harmful emissions.
President Ben Sulayem, a former WRC competitor himself, said: “Today’s launch of the new Rally1 era is a very proud and significant moment for the FIA and entire rally family and I would like to congratulate WRC Promoter for delivering a great show at the start of the championship’s 50th anniversary season.
“The enthusiasm for the FIA’s new technical regulations has been very much in evidence in recent months and the event further underlined the momentum coming from the teams and manufacturers, with Rallye Monte-Carlo just a few days away.
“Beside the hybrid technology adding a new dynamic layer of performance combined with safety improvements, Rally1 cars will be using 100 per cent sustainable fuel and work is also ongoing to achieve greater sustainability in the organisation of each round of the series. I look forward to an exciting season!”
WRC Promoter managing director Jona Siebel welcomed the start of a ‘landmark period’ for the championship.
“Tonight we’ve seen what the future of the WRC looks like,” he added. “I applaud the manufacturers’ hard work and commitment in readying these amazing and innovative Rally1 cars for the WRC’s new era.
“This evening was a marvellous opportunity to showcase the WRC and exhibit the strong desire to create an environment where both fiercely competitive motorsport and the planet can thrive together.”