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