Rally cars that have automatic transmissions

Rally Cars with Automatic Transmissions


Rally racing, a thrilling motorsport involving high-speed driving on rough terrain, presents unique challenges that demand specialized vehicles. Traditionally, rally cars have utilized manual transmissions for precise control and quick gear changes. However, recent developments in automatic transmission technology have opened up new possibilities, leading to the emergence of rally cars equipped with automatic gearboxes. This article explores the benefits, limitations, and specific models of rally cars that have embraced automatic transmissions.

Benefits of Automatic Transmissions in Rally Racing:

1. Reduced Driver Fatigue:

Rally racing requires intense concentration and physical effort, and manual gear shifts can add to driver fatigue. Automatic transmissions eliminate the need for manual gear changes, allowing drivers to focus solely on navigating the challenging terrain.

2. Improved Traction:

Automatic transmissions can provide better traction on slippery or uneven surfaces by selecting the optimal gear ratio for the conditions. This advantage is particularly beneficial in rally stages where grip is crucial.

3. Smoother Gear Changes:

Automatic gearboxes offer smoother and faster gear changes compared to manual transmissions. This smoother shifting reduces the risk of wheelspin and helps maintain a consistent flow of power during acceleration and braking.

Limitations of Automatic Transmissions:

1. Weight and Complexity:

Automatic transmissions are inherently heavier and more complex than manual transmissions, which can add unnecessary weight to a rally car. The increased complexity also requires specialized mechanics for maintenance.

2. Limited Driver Control:

While automatic transmissions reduce driver fatigue, they also sacrifice some level of driver control. Drivers cannot manually select gears or control the exact timing of gear changes, which can limit their ability to adapt to specific conditions.

Model Examples:

Several notable rally cars have incorporated automatic transmissions:

1. Subaru Impreza WRX STI (2015-2018):

Subaru’s iconic Impreza WRX STI rally car adopted a 6-speed automatic transmission in its later generations. This automatic gearbox proved reliable and effective in competitive rallying.

2. Ford Fiesta R5 MkII (2019-present):

Ford’s highly successful Fiesta R5 MkII rally car is offered with a 6-speed automatic transmission as an option. This automatic variant has proven to be a competitive choice in national and international rally championships.

3. Hyundai i20 R5 (2021-present):

Hyundai’s i20 R5 rally car also includes an optional 6-speed automatic transmission. This transmission enhances the car’s performance on slippery surfaces and reduces driver fatigue.

Future Prospects:

The use of automatic transmissions in rally cars is expected to continue growing as technology advances. Manufacturers are exploring lighter and more efficient automatic gearboxes designed specifically for motorsport applications. Additionally, advancements in electronics and software will enable more precise and responsive gear changes, reducing the limitations associated with traditional automatic transmissions.


Automatic transmissions in rally cars offer benefits in terms of reduced driver fatigue, improved traction, and smoother gear changes. However, they come with limitations regarding weight, complexity, and driver control. Specific models, such as the Subaru Impreza WRX STI, Ford Fiesta R5 MkII, and Hyundai i20 R5, have demonstrated the effectiveness of automatic transmissions in rally racing. As technology continues to evolve, automatic gearboxes are likely to play an increasingly prominent role in the future of this exhilarating motorsport.

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