Wil­son un­der­takes first run­ning of mule machine at Kirk­bride and Greystoke For­est

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By David Evans

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

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