M-SPORT’S 2017 FIESTA RUNS
Wilson undertakes first running of mule machine at Kirkbride and Greystoke Forest
M-sport’s next generation Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car has started testing and will spend much of the next three weeks running at the firm’s Greystoke forest facility in Cumbria.
Like its rival machines, the new Fiesta is being put through its paces in mule form, with the 2017 engine and running gear cut into a current car. Outwardly, the only difference is thought to be the addition of a mock-up rear-diffuser to ape what will appear on the new chassis when it breaks cover.
The actual 2017 car is understood to be pencilled in for one of M-sport’s early mainland Europe tests in September. The Cockermouth team’s deployment of the new car is complicated by the fact that Ford has yet to confirm a launch date for the road-going version.
M-sport team principal Malcolm Wilson refused to comment on when the new shape Fiesta would run, but admitted he was delighted with the initial mileage from the mule car.
After an initial roll-out at Kirkbride Airfield, it was Wilson himself who took the car into the forests for the first time last Monday. The former British Rally champion completed 100 miles in a test which lasted from 0930 until 1700hrs. The car ran without any problems.
“I’m very, very excited by what I found with the car,” Wilson told MN. “I’ve tended to drive most of our new cars, just to get a feeling for what they’re doing. From that test, I would know if there was something wrong and there’s nobody [within M-sport] who can put more pressure on the guys to put it right. That’s it for me testing now, I don’t expect to do any more.”
Wilson’s son Matthew, a former WRC and BRC regular and long-term M-sport test driver, will step in for the extended testing and is expected to be in the car four days every week for the next three weeks. The first test outside of the UK will be in France or Spain early next month.
Wilson Sr admitted the process of building a completely new car had changed since the current Fiesta’s arrival in 2011.
“Don’t forget,” he said, “when the current car came, we were able to carry over some of the cost-effective components from the Super 2000 Fiesta, but these’s no chance of doing that with this one. This is a clean sheet of paper. It’s going to be a very expensive car [to develop and build], but it’s beautiful. There’s so much workmanship in it, it looks absolutely lovely. The guys have taken a really big step with this car and that’s what it’s about – it’s the next level. There’s nothing wrong with the current car, but there have been areas to improve on and we’ve done that and more with this one.
“This is a massive venture for us and now that’s it up and running the anticipation and excitement for us all at M-sport is huge.”
Wilson continued: “We’ve been doing some endurance running in Greystoke, but we’re also doing set-up work while also building a bank of data. All the time the car’s running, the guys are gathering more and learning more about it. It’s different and a step on from the processes [building new cars] we have been through before. The guys can, for example, see when there’s an oil surge in the car before the driver is even aware of it.”
M-sport’s all-new Fiesta will make its competitive debut at next year’s season-opening Monte Carlo Rally from January 19-22 when it will go up against the four other 2017 World Rally Cars from Citroen, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Toyota.
The Fiesta is the last of the five newgeneration machines to turn a wheel in anger. Volkswagen’s Polo R WRC has been testing for more than a year, Citroen has been running its C3 WRC since April, with Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Yaris WRC breaking cover in the following weeks.
Hyundai’s 2017 i20 WRC is running in a three-door mule form at the moment, but that car has been worked on since the start of the season.
Extensive running is planned at private facility Wilson undertook early Fiesta testing at Greystoke