Carlos Sainz Sr and Sebastien Loeb on the future of WRC
Two rallying legends chat to TG about their involvement in Extreme E and the future of the WRC
Between them, Carlos Sainz Sr and Sebastien Loeb have 11 World Rally Championships, three Dakar Rally wins (all for Carlos) and a ridiculous amount of experience in other disciplines.
They were both also involved in the inaugural season of the all-electric off-road race series Extreme E, with Loeb driving for Lewis Hamilton’s Team X44 and Sainz owning and driving for the Acciona Sainz XE Team.
So, what do they both make of electrically-powered off-road motorsport, and crucially is it the future for the WRC? We caught up with them both to find out.
TG: Carlos, how have you found Extreme E so far?
Carlos: “I would say in general it’s looking promising, we have some problems with the dust in Saudi Arabia but the second race was really interesting and challenging.
“Head to head racing is a little bit different to what I’m used to. We don’t have many setup possibilities – three for the springs, different ride heights and one change to the shock absorbers. I have to get used to that because I like to test and adapt a car to my liking.
“I’m sure the second season will be stronger.”
TG: Do you think Extreme E can leave a positive legacy?
Carlos: “I think we’re on the right track. It’s not only a race, we’ve been taught so much by the scientists about the planet and about the problems we are facing.
“It’s something that I feel happy to be a part of. The idea of the championship is great. Of course I’ve been in motorsport long enough to respect and to say that I still like normal motorsport, but I’m happy to be part of this new way of doing motorsport.”
TG: How have you found driving the electric Odyssey 21 in Extreme E?
Carlos: “It’s challenging in some areas, but on the other hand for example you don’t have a gearbox so you don’t have to worry what gear you’re in and there’s always power available. You have quick responses too. There are many areas where it’s making your life easier, and it’s a little bit easier than a conventional car.
“It’s very interesting and I’ve always had a very open mind to try and test new things.”
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TG: Is the future of the WRC electric?
Carlos: “For me it’s important that we give time to the manufacturers to make this change in a proper way. They have to make it in a way that keeps the show great. I would like to keep watching rallying and Formula 1 at the level they are at the moment.
“We see today in Formula 1 how fantastic the cars are in terms of sustainability and the power they have compared to the kilos of fuel that they are burning. We’re looking for e-fuels and things like that.
“With the WRC, sure the future is there for the hybrids, but it’s important to keep the DNA of the championship and I think it’s also important to give the spectacle, the variety of the championship, the speed, the challenge of driving these cars. All this has to work together. It’s not so good to push too hard on the manufacturers. I think you need to give the sport time to go in the direction which is good for it.”
TG: Seb, how has the first season of Extreme E been for you?
Seb: “The level of the battle is really high. It’s a new discipline for me and for everyone, but we have nearly all of the best off-road drivers in the world competing.”
TG: And how has the car been for you?
Seb: “The engine is really easy to manage, and sometimes it’s hard to get a sense of speed and traction in an electric car but it’s good in the Odyssey. The power is good, the instant torque is very good. We have some development to do on the suspension and the chassis, but it’s the same for all teams and I’ve really enjoyed driving the car.”
TG: Can WRC ever be an all-electric series?
Seb: “Road cars are going more and more electric, and motorsport always reflects what’s happening with road cars. Some disciplines with short races will be easier to make fully-electric, but things like WRC and Dakar may be more difficult because of the range.
“That’s something that improves every year, though, so maybe one day we will have the possibility of fully-electric rallying. I think the evolution of WRC with the hybrid system is nice. There is a clear step towards electricity and it’s in line with the times. Plus, there’ll be a positive step in terms of performance as a result.”