Hybrid and electric cars are big news right now, but in the world of motorsport their introduction hasn’t been particularly speedy. Suzuki, one of the few car makers to offer a fully hybrid range of production cars, is blazing a trail with its new Swift Hybrid R1 rally car. Massimo Nalli is the president of Suzuki Italy and tells us more.
How did the idea for the Suzuki Swift Hybrid R1 come about?
Suzuki is the only brand in Europe, except the luxury brand Lexus, displaying a fully hybrid range. Our cars are 100% hybrid. We wanted to bring our hybrid technology to our motorsport activities as well. That’s why we gladly took the challenge of being pioneers, the first in Europe and possibly in the world to take on the roads of rallying with hybrid technology.
What events is it competing in?
The Swift Sport Hybrid is competing in the Italian Rally Championship with the ambition to conquer the overall title in the R1 class, which allows cars to compete below 1400cc with limited modifications to the mechanical specs. The R1 class is designed to put the standard fit of the cars who compete in this class under great stress. Reliability is therefore paramount. It is an interesting challenge for the positive repercussions into the quality and performance of the non-competition cars which our customers drive every day.
Who’s driving the car and what do they think of it?
Simone Goldoni is a clear rally talent who achieved a great second in the competitive Italian Suzuki Rally Cup in 2019. He appreciates the great handling and crisp response to brakes, gas, and steering inputs, thanks to the combination of high, thermal turbo engine power, strong electric engine torque and the extremely low mass of the vehicle.
How successful has the car been in its events so far?
The car won both events where it attended, including the first race of the overall Italian championship R1 class, in the prestigious Rally of Rome. So far so good.
Hybrid rally cars are quite unusual. Do you see this car as being pioneering and introducing a new level of competitive racing, ahead of the WRC 2022 announcement?
The hybrid cars are not yet allowed to compete, due to safety concerns. However, ACISport, the Italian motorsports authority, granted Suzuki an exemption, having recognized the intrinsic safety of the 48V Suzuki Hybrid system, and the fact that hybrid technology represents the future of mobility and motorsports.
What were some of the challenges you overcame to create a hybrid rally car?
The electronics of a hybrid Suzuki are high level applications and need high level skills to be adapted to the demanding performance environment of motorsport.
What are some of the advantages the Swift Hybrid has over conventional racing cars?
The torque supplied by the additional electric engine is delivered at very low RPM, boosting the overall output of the power plant.
Can you tell me about this partnership with Motul? How was Motul involved in the project and what are the benefits of that relationship?
Motul and Suzuki have a long history of business together and Motul has great experience in developing advanced motorsport projects. So, it was the natural choice to ask the excellent Motul team to support the development of such an innovative racing car. Motul’s deep expertise in motorsport and the high quality of products, specifically designed for heavy duty usage such as motorsports and modern engines such as the Suzuki Hybrids, made Motul the best possible options. We are proud to share this project with such a great partner.
What difference does its products make to the longevity of mechanical parts?
Suzuki recommends our customers use Motul lubricants to make sure we provide the best performance, durability and eco-compatibility to our racing pilots as well as to our everyday customers.