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As ral­ly­cross has grown ex­po­nen­tially since new pro­moter IMG took over at the start of 2013 and turned the dis­ci­pline into a World Cham­pi­onship a year later, a num­ber of man­u­fac­tur­ers have be­come in­volved in the sport and pushed the tech­nol­ogy in the 600bhp cars to progress.

But, while progress has been made in sus­pen­sion, trans­mis­sion and en­gine tech­nol­ogy, not many of the new cars could be con­sid­ered game chang­ers. That is un­til M-sport and Ford Per­for­mance in­tro­duced the Ford Fo­cus RS RX for 2016, giv­ing a new dy­namic to ral­ly­cross tech. And, not only is the RS RX home to ex­cit­ing new tech, but it also serves a pur­pose that hasn’t been com­mon place in the dual-sur­face dis­ci­pline pre­vi­ously, to mar­ket a brand new road car.

It’s for that rea­son that Ken Block’s Hooni­gan Rac­ing Divi­sion squad are cam­paign­ing the Fo­cus RS RX in World RX this sea­son, de­spite it be­ing con­sid­er­ably larger than the mod­els most com­monly cho­sen for ral­ly­cross and sug­gested by many pre-sea­son that it would be ‘too big’.

There is still a per­cep­tion that top-flight ral­ly­cross cars are built in sheds, usu­ally in Scan­di­navia, but this cre­ation is the po­lar op­po­site of that. The Fo­cus was born on both sides of the At­lantic, a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort be­tween Ford Per­for­mance and M-sport. The RS RX utilises a be­spoke trans­mis­sion from Sadev, mounted trans­versely in the en­gine bay, at­tached to an in-house M-sport de­vel­oped en­gine. Un­der­neath, the car is the only World RX Su­per­car us­ing dou­ble-wish­bone sus­pen­sion with a trans­verse en­gine as part of a whole new phi­los­o­phy as to the best com­pro­mise for start line per­for­mance over on-track ef­fi­ciency on the Tar­mac and loose.

In­side, the Fo­cus fea­tures a ‘smart’ steer­ing wheel, de­vel­oped be­tween M-sport and Cos­worth, the con­cept not an in­signif­i­cant move to mak­ing the ma­chines more user-friendly.

To top it all, this car isn’t an evo­lu­tion of a pre­vi­ous model, it went from blank can­vas to de­but in just nine months, and was a dou­ble event win­ner three months fur­ther down the gravel-strewn road. This is just the start of a long-term pro­ject for Block’s team but given its rea­sons for con­cep­tion, the ex­e­cu­tion and per­for­mance so far, this could go down as one of the most sig­nif­i­cant cars of the era. Hal Ridge

AU­GUST 10 2016

Draws in ral­ly­cross in his Ford Fo­cus Ken Block is one of the big­gest

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