02 Jun: Rallying’s future?

Time to Think – and to Plan

Given the fact that rallying has been suspended for the foreseeable future, it gives us all to time to sit back and ponder what that future might look like. If this article can generate some GENUINE debate and practical suggestions then I might just pass them on to Motorsport UK – along with my own!  Contribute on Facebook or here – [http://www.jaggybunnet.co.uk/contact-us/]

Motorsport UK has announced a new set of rules and technical regulations to allow electricity to enter the world of amateur motor sport. Unfortunately, rallying will get left behind until such times as two person crews are allowed to share a cockpit. That means we have a wee bit of an opportunity to get the rules right before the sport kicks off again – whenever that might be. This is not criticism of MS UK, just an acceptance of fact. Until the boffins come up with a proven vaccine for this bluidy covidia business then we will have to accept that two in a car is unlikely to happen any time soon.

Introducing such a radical new concept is going to be difficult. Some hybrid cars can have more than one electric motor and some of the fully electric jobs have one driving each wheel. With hybrids you also have a naturally aspirated, turbo or supercharged engine. Coming up with a set of regulations that attempts to even that out will require not just mental dexterity and technical expertise, but a touch of black magic as well!

Late last year, Vauxhall Opel started testing its Corsa-e Rally car. Quick and agile but limited in range. It uses the same battery as the production car with a 50-kWh motor that enables a range of 209 miles (337 kms). The rally car has three modes: ‘Competition Mode’ which gives full power and maximum torque for at least 37 miles (60 km); ‘Rain Mode’ that gives a torque curve adapted to slippery surfaces; and an energy-saving ‘Eco Mode’ for use between stages and going to service.

It would be relatively easy to accommodate hybrid cars as the rules stand, but the electric machines pose more of a problem. Before they could become practical propositions, there would need to be a quickly interchangeable and reasonably priced battery pack option. Manufacturers will give you different prices for different packs because they all seem to measure power, charging and discharging rates differently. It’s also worth bearing in mind that these battery packs lose efficiency – up to 20% after 5 years according to some reliable sources.

As for replacement or spare packs, some of these cars have over 7,000 battery cells in their packs. Just try going down to Tesco and asking for 7000 of those infuriating Bunny drumming cells. At current high street prices that will be around £11,000, then add all the electronic gubbins to manage and make these packs work. Oh, and one other thing, they might only have a couple of hundred in stock! On-event charging would be quite impossible.

Electric cars bring another problem to the sport. There would need to some form of safety and technical training for Scrutineers, Marshals, Medics and Breakdown crews. Just another cost to hang on the organisation of events.

Such cars might therefore be considered … [Next Page 2]

02 Jun: Rallying’s future? Pg2

Time to Think – and to Plan – 2

Such cars might therefore be considered ideal for single venue events only at the present time, with short stages and shorter road sections. Or, like Coltness CC’s well received and enjoyed McRae Gravel Challenge 3 years back which had basically 4 different stage layouts in Craigvinean forest. A great day out but entry limited by lack of sufficient nearby space for a service area and the restrictions on how many cars you can get through such a short format in a limited time span. There are indeed large forest complexes around with that sort of scope, but lacking anything like that marvellous new car park facility at Greenside in Kielder right in the heart of rallying country.

However, this format may well appeal to Closed Road events provided the organisers can find a decent 3 or 4 stretches of rural road near a suitable urban location. The recently proposed ‘Coast to Coast Rally’ (currently covidly postponed!) in the south west of Scotland looked ideal from that point of view and might just point the way forward for others thinking of organising a compact closed road event on mainland soil.

The trouble is, the minute a new technical rule is announced, it fires up engineers and scientists, whose only desire is more performance and more power, and then seek to exploit those rules. That’s how the technology race starts and prices increase. It’s a natural human thing and one that would be difficult to control, unless we resort to one-make championships.

There is a downside with that too. Such a series lacks variety. 40 years ago rally entry lists looked like a christmas tree. The stars were at the top and then as you got lower down the string, the lights all just looked the same. In times past, strings of Group 1 Escorts were followed by a procession of Peugeot 205s with Toyota Corollas or Ladas bringing up the rear.

One-make categories bring their own problems too. There’s always someone trying to stretch, bend or break the rules regarding eligibility just to gain an advantage. Regulations would have to be very carefully written and scrutinised. If some performance parts were to be allowed on say ‘safety grounds’ then those parts would have to be first approved for use by the sport’s governing body. And if an engineering firm or parts accessory manufacturer wanted to produce their own they would have to be approved before sale too, just so that everyone has a chance to buy the same kit and ensure a level playing field. Naturally the promoters of such a series will have the option to veto those parts they think merely enhance performance and are too expensive. That’s where many such challenges failed in the past when those who could afford better bits had faster, better handling motors! That also means stricter scrutineering and more knowledgeable scroots!

On the other hand these one-make championships were good fun and good for the sport giving some folk a taste for it, and the ambitious the desire to get better and faster cars, hopefully  to progress up the results and start winning rather than just making up the numbers.

And so it will be again … [Next Page 3]

02 Jun: Rallying’s future? Pg3

Time to Think – and to Plan – 3 And so it will be again with hybrid and fully electric vehicles. If we don’t get on top of this before it starts, the technology race will kick off, costs and prices will increase and more folk will be put off […] Read more »

02 Jun: Rallying’s future? Pg4

Time to Think – and to Plan – 4 Thinking back to the Craigvinean event there was indeed one selfish, irresponsible oaf who was defying the requests of Course Car crews and refused to move from his chosen vantage point – until a few other spectators stepped in and suggested […] Read more »

27 May: The Perfect ‘Spy’ Car

The Ultimate ‘Company’ Car … Something is stirring deep in the heart of Newport Bagnall. It has a 4 litre, triple SU fed straight-six, generating some 290 bhp. It might be a bit pricey, but it’s the only way that a very select few will get to feel like James […] Read more »

23 May: Lookback to SRC 1996

Scottish Rally Championship Newsletter, October 1996 The phone at Castle Bunnet burst into life one evening. Uh, Oh, thought he. BT have connected him up again, somebody must have paid the bill. Anyway on the other end was a sort of swooshing noise. But it wasn’t an alien space ship, […] Read more »