2017 FI­ESTA TEST IN FRANCE New chal­lenger un­der­goes test on tough roads with Wil­son/loudon

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - By David Evans

M-sport’s 2017 Ford Fi­esta RS WRC has passed its lat­est test, a week of run­ning on Dakar-type roads in the south of France.

The Fon­tjon­couse site close to Nar­bonne is among the best venues in Europe for de­struc­tion and en­durance run­ning of Dakar rac­ers as well as World Rally Cars. While the test fin­ished ear­lier than planned due to a dam­aged trans­mis­sion, Matthew Wil­son was amazed at what he found from the new Fi­esta.

“From a chas­sis and sus­pen­sion per­spec­tive, this was just what we needed,” said Wil­son. “We’ve done a lot of work with the car in Greystoke [M-sport’s ded­i­cated for­est test fa­cil­ity] and I was re­ally im­pressed with what the car was do­ing there. We’d run in the wet, dry, smooth and rut­ted and ev­ery­thing was great, but I know that place like the back of my hand and you re­ally need to get away from there to con­firm what you’re do­ing and make sure you are go­ing in the right di­rec­tion. That’s what this test has been for. And we’re def­i­nitely go­ing in the right di­rec­tion.”

The Fi­esta re­mains in an in­terim spec­i­fi­ca­tion, with the 2017 en­gine and trans­mis­sion run­ning in a mod­i­fied cur­rent shell – Ford’s all-new Fi­esta road car won’t be re­vealed un­til next year – but Wil­son says the devel­op­ment process has been rapid.

“I can’t be­lieve how well the chas­sis is com­ing along,” he said. “Last year, when we were start­ing out on the 2017 devel­op­ment, we ran a big­ger re­stric­tor in the en­gine and put that into a cur­rent chas­sis; it was wild. Giv­ing the cur­rent chas­sis all that ex­tra power, it couldn’t re­ally deal with it. But now, ev­ery­thing has pro­gressed so well, the chas­sis devel­op­ment is run­ning along­side the en­gine work and the car feels sen­sa­tional.

“I re­mem­ber test­ing around 2003 and 2004, when we had some real trick bits on the cars: three ac­tive diffs, ac­tive ride height, ac­tive launch con­trol – the car would ac­tu­ally take sec­ond gear for you off the line – and those cars were great. But this one is way faster than that now. This is a mas­sive step.”

Wil­son will re­main at the heart of M-sport’s test and devel­op­ment pro­gramme for next sea­son, de­spite his con­tin­ued com­mit­ment to the firm’s Bent­ley race team.

“I’m ab­so­lutely loving the test­ing,” said Wil­son, who was joined by Ott Tanak and Eric Camilli for the week-long ses­sion in France. “I’ve done the test work on the S2000, R5 and 2011 World Rally Car and, in some ways, it’s even more re­ward­ing than com­pet­ing. To take the car in its re­ally raw, early form and take it through the devel­op­ment cy­cle be­fore hand­ing it over to the driv­ers when it’s pretty much ready to com­pete is so sat­is­fy­ing. And you do get to work with some bloody clever peo­ple!”

M-sport’s Fi­esta is now ex­pected to com­plete more Greystoke run­ning in the com­ing weeks be­fore high-speed gravel and the as­phalt-spec­i­fi­ca­tion car.

“I can’t wait for the high-speed run­ning we’ve got planned in Fin­land soon. We’re at an in­terim stage with a few parts on this car, but know­ing [what] we’ve still got to come makes me very ex­cited about the fu­ture for this car.”

Matthew Wil­son put Fi­esta through paces Wil­son hopes to help out Tanak

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