Ford’s all-new Fiesta RS World Rally Car is set to receive final clearance for its FIA World Rally Championship debut this week when motorsport’s governing body gives it the seal of approval to compete in Rally Sweden next month. The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) is ready to approve homologation of Ford’s challenger for the 2011 championship after the car successfully cleared tough technical inspections to ensure it complies with the sport’s new cost-effective regulations.
Ford’s four-wheel drive WRC challenger is derived from the best-selling Fiesta road car. It was developed from the 2010 Monte Carlo Rally-winning Fiesta S2000 rally car by the Blue Oval’s long-term British-based partner M-Sport, with support from Ford of Europe. It forms part of a new era in the World Rally Championship, for which a revised cost-effective formula is introduced this season.
M-Sport, together with Ford’s engineering team, undertook a varied and structured development programme with the Fiesta RS WRC in readiness for the 2011 season. Work will continue, with the car shortly due to be taken to the Environmental Testing Laboratory at Ford’s Dunton Technical Centre in the UK to evaluate and optimise engine performance. The 1.6-litre turbocharged direct injection engine that powers the rally car draws on the knowledge of Ford’s advanced EcoBoost technology, used in its latest production cars. Engine tuner Pipo Moteurs took responsibility for the development of the Fiesta RS WRC’s power plant. The French company, which has developed a strong relationship with M-Sport and Ford in motorsport in recent years, worked closely with engineers from both companies throughout the process of developing the competition unit.
The Fiesta RS WRC’s 1.6-litre EcoBoost power unit has turbocharging from a Garrett system, which is fitted with a 33mm inlet restrictor, as required by FIA regulations. The unit is managed by Cosworth’s electronic engine system. Cosworth also provides chassis data acquisition. The four-wheel drive transmission contains mechanical front and rear differentials, with a clutch disconnect system fitted to the handbrake. The M-Sport / X-Trac-built six-speed sequential gearbox is operated by a mechanical shift, using a twin disc clutch built by M-Sport and AP Racing.
Both front and rear suspension comprises MacPherson struts with Reiger external reservoir dampers, which are adjustable in bump and rebound. It contains fully adjustable steel links and the uprights are made from machined aluminium. Brembo ventilated brake discs with four-piston monoblock calipers provide the stopping power on both loose and sealed surface roads, with the braking system adjustable to provide either front or rear bias. Michelin’s 650mm tyres will be used on all surfaces, allied with 7in x 15in aluminium wheels for gravel and snow and 8in x 18in wheels for asphalt.
The Fiesta RS WRC has covered more than 11,000 kilometres of testing on gravel, asphalt, snow and ice in preparation for its WRC debut – the equivalent of more than two full seasons of WRC competition. The team began by installing a 2.0-litre engine from a 2010 Focus RS WRC into the Fiesta S2000 rally car in March last year. Testing was stepped up significantly in August when a 1.6-litre prototype engine (without direct injection) was installed for the first time. Since then the car has been trialled on gravel roads in Britain, Portugal, France and Spain and on asphalt in Britain, France and Spain. Snow and ice tests have taken place in Sweden.
“We’re encouraged by both the car’s performance and its reliability over thousands of kilometres of testing, and we’re confident we can transfer that into competition. But the true test will come during the opening round in Sweden next week,” said Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson. “It was a challenging test programme. Matching the car to the tyres of our new supplier, Michelin, was a demanding process. We’ve made excellent progress but I believe Mikko and Jari-Matti will learn more about the way the tyres behave as we encounter new conditions on different rallies,” added Wilson.