Once banned in WRC competition, all of the series’ cars now come complete with paddle shifters. The announcement by Hyundai that their i20 WRC subcompact rally competitor would be fitted with a new paddle enabled gearbox for the Rally Argentina event coming up came earlier this week.
The i20’s competitors, modified stock versions of the Ford Fiesta, VW Polo, and Citroen DS 3, have been fitted with paddle shifters for some time now.
The addition of paddle shifters will allow for quicker shifting of gears, and since all cars in the series use the mandated six-speed sequential gearbox, which lacks direct access to individual gears in the sequence, concerns of the inability of the paddles to shift multiple gears are moot.
All manufacturers have admitted though, that though they expect the addition of paddle shifters to improve shift speeds, they do not expect such to be overly consequential in the grand scheme of things. The primary benefits of the introduction of the paddles are the ability they afford the drivers in terms of control; drivers can now keep two hands on the wheel when shifting, which will help maintain control during braking and quick maneuvering.
The Hyundai team commented on the switch, saying,
“Over the length of a rally it improves performance because the way the gears are changing is always optimised. And for the driver I think it is a bit more comfortable – and that in the end will bring an improvement,”
In addition to the six-speed sequential manual transmissions, World Rally Championship cars employ the mandated 1.6 liter in-line four cylinder engines with direct fuel injection and turbocharging, equipped with anti-lag systems(though a 33mm intake restricter is in place. The transmission can deliver up to the maximum limit of 300 horsepower at 6,000 rpm to the full-time four wheel drive setup. Each manufacturer designs the engine block around their production variants, and modifications to the crankshafts, connecting rods, pistons, cylinder linings, valves, and camshafts are allowed.