That’s why WRC 2022 could be the most exciting season in decades

With the last few years of motorsport decimated by the pandemic, fans around the world are eagerly awaiting the return of their favorite series in 2022. The 2020 and 2021 World Rally Championship has been marked by shortened seasons, many canceled events and severe restrictions on spectators. Now that restrictions have been eased in most places it’s back in full swing for the new season. Things started in January with a dramatic event in Monte Carlo where partially retired rally legend Seb Loeb took victory after a close battle with defending 2021 champion Seb Ogier.

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The first event of the season showed how many drivers were in potential rally-winning form and the newly introduced Rally1 cars added an extra layer of unpredictability to the event. This is just a small snapshot of what rally fans can expect this season, as the action-packed schedule is just beginning and promises many more surprises to come. Although the 2022 WRC season is still in its infancy, it could be the most exciting fans have seen in decades.

8th A new era of Rally1 cars

Toyota Yaris Rally1
About Toyota

The biggest change for the 2022 season is the introduction of a new era of cars, the Hybrid Rally1 class. Gone are the petrol-powered World Rally Car machines of years past, replaced instead by this new generation of hybrid cars that promise a more sustainable future.

Hyundai i20 Rally1
About Hyundai

The cars are powered by a 100 kW electric motor and a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder combustion engine working in tandem. The internal combustion engine runs on biofuel and together the two systems give a combined output of over 500 hp. These are numbers not seen since the Group B WRC era and it means the new Rally1 cars are the fastest class ever to race in WRC.

7 Extended calendar with 13 rounds

WRC calendar 2022
About WRC

In the last two seasons event calendars have been cut due to Covid restrictions but hopefully 2022 should see the return of the full lineup of events. To make up for lost time, this year the WRC has added an additional event to its usual twelve-round schedule, bringing the total to thirteen rounds.

WRC Rally New Zealand
About WRC

There are plenty of fan favorites including the return of Rally New Zealand, a classic event first held in the WRC in 1977. Rally Greece is also scheduled for later in the year after its return in the reduced 2021 season. This is in addition to regular WRC encounters such as Sweden, Italy, Finland and Spain.

6 Return of the Kenya Rally

Toyota Yaris Rally Kenya
About Toyota Gazoo Racing

One of the most iconic motorsport events ever has been missing from the WRC calendar for years but finally returned in 2021 and is back again for 2022. It’s of course the Safari Rally Kenya, an event that was so tough last year that a whopping 50% of the drivers didn’t even make it to the finish.

Hyundai i20 Rally Kenya
About WRC

It is one of the longest-running rally events in the world, with 2022 set to be the sixty-ninth event. However, it hasn’t featured on the World Rally Championship calendar since 2002, so it’s great to see a return of this fan favorite who always brings some of the most spectacular scenery of any rally on the planet.

5 Unprecedented fight for the drivers’ championship

WRC Team Hyundai 2022
About Hyundai

In the last eighteen years, the WRC drivers’ title has gone to just three men: nine times to Seb Loeb, eight times to Seb Ogier and a single title in 2019 to Ott Tanak. This year, for the first time since 2003, neither Seb will have a full season and the drivers’ title is now up for grabs and could be taken by one of several leading drivers. Ott Tanak will, of course, be looking to claim a second crown after his disappointing fifth place in last year’s Championship and Britain’s Elfyn Evans will be looking to lift his first title after finishing second to Seb Ogier for two consecutive years.

Elfyn Evans Toyota Gazoo Racing
About Toyota Gazoo Racing

Theirry Neuville is also a championship contender and young gun Kalle Rovanpera has proven to be a watch to watch after his fourth-place finish of the 2021 season. Irishman Craig Breen is also leading the way at M-Sport this year and shouldn’t be underestimated. His podium finish at the first event of the 2022 season shows he means business and if he can maintain that pace throughout the season he may also have a shot at the Drivers’ Championship.

4 The new Ford Puma from M-Sport

Ford Puma Rally1
About M Sport

Toyota and Hyundai have kept the same base model for their new Rally1 cars with the Yaris and i20 respectively. However, M-Sport Ford took a different route and instead of using a Fiesta like in previous seasons, they switched to a Puma crossover. The car is new from the ground up and proved very competitive in the first rally of the season.

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Ford Puma Rally1
About M Sport

The Puma finished first and third in the hands of Seb Loeb and Craig Breen, a complete reversal from last year when Ford’s cars struggled to keep up with the competition. It’s a dramatic turnaround for the UK-based team, and it means M-Sport could be back in the manufacturer’s title fight after a few years behind.

3 The first rally in Asia since 2010

Citroen WRC Rally Japan
About Red Bull

2022 already looks set to be a season of firsts, but the long-awaited return of Rally Japan is another reason for rally fans to rejoice. Originally it was planned that Japan would return in the 2020 season, but the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus resulted in the event being cancelled.

Toyota Yaris Rally Japan
About WRC

It was then scheduled for 2021 but canceled again for the same reason. Hopefully 2022 will be the year the event finally returns. It is currently scheduled to take place from November 10th to 14th, making it the last event of the year.

2 Return of the Sebs

Seb Loeb Ford Puma Rally1 Monte Carlo 2022
About WRC

Although neither Sebs will be competing full-time this year, both have shown they are keen to appear at select rounds of the championship. Their appearance at the season opener, the Monte Carlo Rally, offered fans a classic re-imagining of French driving skills in one of the closest battles since their rivalry began in the early 2010s.

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Seb Loeb and Seb Ogier Monte Carlo 2022
About WRC

There’s still no confirmation on which events Ogier and Loeb will appear in later in the season, but it’s safe to assume this won’t be their only championship appearance in 2022. Their ability to claim podiums even when running part of the season should be a concern for this year’s drivers’ title contenders as the full-time drivers will have to fight even harder to wrest valuable championship points from the two Frenchmen.

1 New talent starts to shine

WRC Takamoto Katsuta
About WRC

It’s not just the old guard who have shown their skills over the last year, there are also plenty of new talents climbing the ranks. We’ve already mentioned Kalle Rovanpera’s fourth place finish last season, but fellow newcomer Takamoto Katsuta also impressed with his second place finish at Safari Rally Kenya last year behind Seb Ogier.

WRC Oliver Solberg Hyundai i20
About WRC

Oliver Solberg has also shown impressive pace in the 2021 season, although so far he has lacked the consistency to move up the rankings. However, with a new car and new events, 2022 could be a breakthrough season for him. Not to mention other up and coming drivers like Gus Greensmith and Adrien Formaux who have shown good pace in multiple rallies making this season’s driver line-up one of the most competitive in decades.

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