The historical 2022 World Rally Championship (WRC) season, the first of the new hybrid era, is to start in 83 days time. The three teams currently competing in the WRC are intensifying their preparations in order to face this technical and sporting challenge as ready as possible.
The latest team to present its project for next season, Hyundai Motorsport, has completed a test in the Piedmont region of northern Italy this past Friday, October 29. Starting on Wednesday and over three days, the South Korean team has accelerated the set-up of its new i20 N Rally 1.
They hope that this extra preparation will help them shorten distances with their Toyota and M-Sport rivals, the latter being the ones with the most advanced Rally 1 programme of them all.
The tests, which took place in the surroundings of Cuneo, hometown of the Hyundai Motorsport’s sports director of Andrea Adamo, are framed in this pre-season preparation context.
Hyundais’ two full-time drivers Ott Tänak and Thierry Neuville, winner of Rally Spain 2021, as well as the Spaniard Dani Sordo, who will alternate behind the wheel of the third Asian car next season with the newly signed Oliver Solberg, have all helped to fine-tune their new vehicle even more over these last few days.
The Estonian driver was the one that started to squeeze all the juice out of the Hyundai Motorsport missile last Wednesday before handing it over to his Belgian partner a day later. The Spaniard closed the test program on Friday.
A rally simulation
The Hyundai racers have not carried out a traditional testing programme, but have prepared using a new system: A rally simulation. The training has replicated the conditions of a WRC round, albeit in a more condensed format.
The team had an itinerary consisting of special stages as well as specific starting times for each stage. To make it even more realistic, the test took place through various mountainous sections of the Alba Rally, an event where Hyundai Motorsport usually has an important presence.
Also, and in order for the drivers to get familiar with the upcoming changes in the 2022 World Championship, they have replicated the new tire assembly and preparation areas for electric vehicles which are to come in place in the upcoming season.
The tests have emphasised the particularities and precautions to take into account when using electricity as an energy source. Although cars should only circulate in electric mode at the interchange sections, they will mount some visual indicators (red and green) to warn of the risk of a possible discharge. Neuville had famously opposed the course taken by the WRC with regards to safety.
Besides the criticisms from Neuville, the Hyundai test has been completed without any major setback besides some relatively minor incidences which are to be expected given the newness of the Rally 1 chassis.
Among them is the increase in temperature detected by Tänak in the passenger compartment of the car on Wednesday, which was caused by the heat emitted by its own exhaust.
Although they still have some way to go to fully familiarize themselves with the hybrid system, the Hyundai team is working hard to continue perfecting their weapon for the 2022 Championship. The new era and will start with the Monte-Carlo Rally on January 20, 2022.
Images of Hyundai Motorsport test: Hyundai Motorsport WRT.