Manufacturers given more time to gear up for battery power
The plug has been pulled – temporarily at least – on the World Rallycross Championship’s much-vaunted switch from petrol power to electric in order to give manufacturers more time to prepare.
With its short, fast-paced formats – involving multiple heats and finals – WRX is currently the ideal place for electric propulsion. Batteries can be emptied at full tilt, without the need to conserve, and simply replaced between races and put back on charge. The move was initially planned for the 2020 season, but instead the Oreca-built cars with manufacturer-developed motors will come into the series in 2021.
On top of the chassis will be bodies that resemble the road cars each manufacturer is marketing, essentially turning WRX into a silhouette formula.
“A huge amount has been accomplished in a relatively short time since the first formal meeting in June 2017,” said Paul Bellamy, senior vice-president of series promoter IMG.
“A completely new type of rallycross car has been conceived and defined, and so it is worth waiting a little longer to secure the best possible field of competitors. We believe that fans new and old will love what will be a thrilling addition to their favourite events.”
No marque has officially signed up yet for the electric series, but the hope is that it will attract several mainstream brands eager to burnish their green credentials, in the same way that Formula E has. It is cost-effective, too, since cars are built on top of an off-the-shelf chassis. The investment will also be made into something directly relevant to what’s happening on the road car production line. It ought to be an easy conversation in automotive board rooms.
Meanwhile, Audi has withdrawn from WRX competition – for the time being at least. The German company is whittling down its factory racing efforts yet further, focusing purely on Formula E and DTM from 2019 onwards.
Mattias Ekström’s EKS squad gained full factory backing in 2015, when Audi pulled its WEC programme.
It seems unlikely the company will return when WRX becomes EWRX, announcing that it already has an electric focus in Formula E and prefers to continue with its DTM programme instead.
It remains to be seen whether the DTM’s uncertain future – with Mercedes pulling out at the end of this year – will prompt an about turn on the decision before 2021.
Independent teams should fill the void, with a model similar to Formula E’s approach. Teams can either simply buy direct from manufacturers, or develop their own drivetrains and bodies.
Teams have until March 29 next year to sign up for EWRX.