There is something in common between 7 out of the last 10 World Rally Championship manufacturers’ titles: the use of the HTE ONE seats by OMP. With no doubt, we are talking about one of the most successful projects in the WRC annals and for the Italian brand part of Racing Force Group.
The history of the HTE ONE family begins with the preliminary studies conducted in 2008. After the new FIA 8862-2009 standard came into effect and the homologation process completed in 2010, Petter Solberg is the first international-level driver who puts his trust in the product. The 2003 World Rally Champion adopts the HTE ONE seats on the Citroen C4 WRC ran by his own outfit. "The first silhouette on Solberg measures was taken from a polystyrene block, as technology was not the same as today", tells us Matteo Repetto, who is now OMP research and development director. In 2011, the Norwegian ace finishes in third place in the overall WRC standings, with eight podium places, and he plays a key role in the development. His precious feedback helps OMP engineers to improve step by step the seat characteristics.
In 2012, the agreement between OMP and Volkswagen Motorsport starts, to supply racewear and safety equipment. After a learning year with the Skoda Fabia S2000, and eighteen months of private testing, the German marque debuts in 2013 the Polo R WRC, setting its reign. Together with Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen dominates the World Rally Championship for four consecutive editions, and team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen make possible to celebrate 43 victories out of 52 entries. In all of them, the HTE ONE seats give their contribution.
Still unbeaten, Volkswagen leaves the WRC at the end of 2016, but OMP remains on the stage through the collaboration with Toyota, which comes back in 2017. "The relationship actually started two or three years before the race debut. In this period, Toyota organized an intense testing program, even on the same routes featured in the calendar. This permitted us to immediately provide a product with ideal specifications", Matteo explains. By the way, as is well known, progress in motorsport never stops: the experience gained alongside Toyota paves the way to launch the evolved HTE ONE Lite. This version is lighter and has some geometries variations to fit the body of taller drivers as Ott Tanak and Elfyn Evans.
"I had many years using the OMP products and I've always been satisfied. The seat is a fundamental item for us as drivers: we need to feel comfortable and to have good retention in it. It's also important to work with people that are reactive and listen to what you wish. This is what I feel with OMP, even when we had some type of issue, but it's normal as everything can't be perfect. We know we are very demanding, as we always want the best, so it's important to us to have this kind of cooperation. Thank you OMP for the support, and let's hope to carry on this nice collaboration", told us Ogier, who won a total of six titles with the HTE One, the last two in 2020 and 2021 at the wheel of Toyota.
In the meanwhile, OMP signed another prestigious partnership with Hyundai Motorsport. The opening step is a racewear supply for 2021, but in 2022 the deal is extended to safety equipment for the new i20 N Rally 1. It so became usual to see OMP podium lock-outs: during the last season, it happened in 11 out of 13 rounds. At the eve of the 2023 campaign, the target is to continue the same trend, also in the feeder WRC2 category. Skoda Motorsport, another OMP top partner, adopts the HTE ONE seat for the brand new Fabia RS Rally2.
Through all its iterations, the HTE ONE family has proven its competitiveness everywhere, being chosen by several manufacturers, teams and drivers in other contexts as rallycross and circuit racing, for GT and Touring car categories. Still Petter Solberg rewrote the record books, securing the 2014 WRX edition and becoming the first-ever world champion in two different disciplines. Since then, the HTE ONE seat contributed to a total of 7 out of 9 World RX crowns, thanks also to Johann Kristoffersson.