The World Rally Championship's next ruleset will continue with the internal combustion engine (ICE) beyond 2027, ending suggestions it could take the EV route in a further attempt to clean up its image.
Under the current regulations, Rally1 cars marry a 1.6-litre engine that runs on sustainable fuels with a Compact Dynamics-developed energy recovery system that allows for EV driving on- and off-stage.
Developing 100kW of extra power, the hybrid unit was viewed as one way of making the competition more relevant by aligning Rally1 with their road-going counterparts on which they are loosely based.
Although this set-up is currently under review, it looks set to remain in place long-term after Peter Thul – the Senior Director for Sport at WRC Promoter – said pure battery power is not being considered.
Hydrogen has also been mooted in some quarters, with the WRC's reigning manufacturers' champions Toyota giving a glimpse of what is possible with the GR Yaris H2 – a prototype rally car that features a three-cylinder motor that runs on the gaseous substance and produces an exhaust sound but no emissions.
“At the moment, discussion of future regulations is absolutely important and everybody who is in the Championship agrees it has to be a mix of hybrid and sustainable fuel, in whichever combination it will be,” Thul told journalists during a roundtable discussion at the Acropolis Rally in Greece.
Whilst Thul sees the potential for hydrogen, he doesn't share the same optimism for BEV technology.
“Hydrogen would be fantastic,” he continued, “but even Toyota who is pioneering this side is saying it needs time [to further develop the technology and make it viable]. We would also have to look at the logistics and the refuelling.
“I was at the Munich Auto Show and some manufacturers are now even rethinking to go more down the path of sustainable fuel and this makes us confident [about the current WRC ruleset] but the problem at the moment is the automotive world is not clear.
“Some manufacturers are going 100 percent electric or nothing and others are re-doing it a little bit. It isn't easy at the moment, but we [the WRC Promoter] have not been working on this since yesterday.
“We still believe rallying should have a component of internal combustion. Porsche and Formula 1 is going in this direction. Even in 2030 I think you will see half the car park still has internal combustion engines.
“We believe this is the only chance to keep rallying as it is. Going full electric at the moment, with the technology available, is no option,” he added.