The Hyundai i20 N Is the First of Many Hybrid Rally Cars to Come

Formula E is no longer the only racing series available to electrified race cars. EVs are starting to compete in off-road races, and hybrids are beginning to join in, too. So, if you’re a WRC fan, you’re about to see a whole host of hybrid rally cars drift through the dirt. And the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 will be one of them.

WRC is going hybrid for 2022

A cutaway diagram of the 2022 2022 Rally1 WRC rally car's roll cage structure and hybrid powertrain
2022 Rally1 WRC rally car diagram | World Rally Championship

Although the ARA isn’t taking part, the WRC has been planning to bring in hybrid rally cars for several years. The FIA, the governing body of all automotive racing, first announced the idea back in 2019, Top Gear explains. But it’s only now that we’re getting a closer look at what the new ‘Rally1’ hybrid class entails.

The main competitors in WRC these days are Hyundai, Toyota Gazoo Racing, and Ford M Sport, Evo explains. And for 2022, all three teams are fielding hybrid rally cars built using a standardized formula. That means each racer has a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine combined with a 3.9-kWh battery pack and a 100-kW rear-axle-mounted electric motor/generator, The Drive and Autocar report.

Altogether, the hybrid powertrain generates around 500 hp. And that power goes to all four wheels via AWD and a five-speed sequential transmission. Plus, these hybrid rally cars can operate in electric-only mode. As a result, they can race in cities without breaking noise restrictions or disturbing the residents. And, in certain stages, the cars can activate a special electric boost, Top Gear reports.

However, the hybrid powertrain isn’t the only new thing for the 2022 WRC rally cars. The new racers have reinforced internal roll cages and stronger door bars. The axle and suspension regulations are simpler than in previous years, Evo notes. And going forward, all WRC cars will use a blend of biofuels and synthetic fuels that’s 100% sustainable, Autoblog reports.

The Hyundai i20 N Rally1 gives a glimpse of these hybrid rally cars

The side view of the blue-and-white-camouflaged 2022 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 prototype drifting on a gravel rally stage
2022 Hyundai i20 N Rally1 prototype side | World Rally Championship

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While the COVID-19 pandemic caused some delays, the WRC claims it’s “‘on course'” to unveil the Rally1 cars for the 2022 season. And now, the first images of the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 prototype have hit the Internet.

The Hyundai i20 N is the smaller, non-US-market sibling of the Veloster N. Think ‘Fiesta ST’ to the Veloster N’s ‘Focus ST.’ In standard form, the i20 N has a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 201 hp and 202 lb-ft linked to a six-speed manual, Automobile reports. It also comes with standard downshift rev-matching, multiple driving modes, sportier suspension, stiffer anti-roll bars, larger brakes, and an optional limited-slip differential.

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While the standard Hyundai i20 N isn’t playful as the European-market Fiesta ST, Top Gear notes, it’s in the same spot on the hot hatch tier list. And it’s worth noting that with the current WRC version Hyundai has won two consecutive FIA Constructor’s Championships. The hybrid i20 N WRC rally car, then, has a legacy to live up to.

When and where will the hybrids take to the stage?

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Although all the 2022 WRC hybrid rally cars use the same Compact Dynamics motor and battery, the rest of the setup is automaker-specific. And while the 2022 Hyundai i20 N is the first Rally1 car spotted testing publicly, Ford already unveiled its Rally1 car. Toyota’s racer has yet to be formally seen.

As of this writing, the 2022 WRC schedule isn’t finalized. However, the 2021 season started in January with the Monte Carlo Rally. So, we could see the new hybrid rally cars turn their wheels in anger in as little as eight months from now.

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