In­side one of the new-for-2017 World Rally Cars – and he was highly im­pressed

Motor Sport News - - Track Test: M-sport’s 2017 Car - Pho­tos: M-sport

ex­cite­ment – you can feel it run­ning through the whole com­pany.” And through the sport. “You’re right,” he con­tin­ues, “ev­ery­thing changes next sea­son. No­body knows what any­body else has got. Ev­ery­body’s started from afresh and there’s more room for a spark of ge­nius than there has been for a long time.”

Has there been a spark of ge­nius in Cum­bria?

“Maybe,” says Wil­son with a smile that spreads quickly to a grin.

“I think there will be some sur­prises ev­ery­where, but no­body knows who’s done what. One of the areas we don’t know about and won’t know about un­til we’re a few rounds in is the aero­dy­nam­ics. How have they worked with each model? Who’s got it right? Who’s made the best job? We’re very happy with what we’ve done here, the so­lu­tion we’ve come up with is fan­tas­tic.

“I’ve got to be hon­est, I’ve been amazed at just what the team here have come up with. The depth of anal­y­sis they’ve gone into is, quite sim­ply, breath­tak­ing – they’ve done sim­u­la­tions of fuel lev­els, things I’ve never even con­sid­ered. It’s re­ally made me un­der­stand just what a skillset we’ve got here.”

No­body in the ser­vice park can boast more World Rally Car know-how than M-sport; next sea­son will mark the 20th an­niver­sary of cut­ting-edge cars com­ing from Cum­bria.

Much as he’s keen to ex­toll the virtues of those in Cock­er­mouth, Wil­son’s equally quick to pay trib­ute to a per­sonal and pro­fes­sional re­la­tion­ship with Ford which has en­com­passed the vast ma­jor­ity of his work­ing life – and pretty much all his time be­hind the wheel of a rally car.

“Ford’s back to where it was when I be­gan driv­ing in the sport,” says Wil­son. “I came in at the grass roots level in a Ford and stayed in a car with that fa­mous blue oval badge all the way up to world cham­pi­onship level. You can do the same now and that’s so im­por­tant to me, like I said per­son­ally, but also for the busi­ness.”

And Wil­son made the 2017 Fi­esta even more per­sonal when he be­came the first man to stick Ge­of­frey in stage mode ear­lier this year.

“I’ll ad­mit,” he says, “I was one of the ones ques­tion­ing if we needed more power from these reg­u­la­tions. I don’t have that con­cern now. I don’t think I stopped smil­ing for the whole time I was driv­ing it. It’s a beau­ti­fully bal­anced car with so much feel and power, it’s stun­ning.”

Head of rally en­gi­neer­ing Chris Wil­liams has been the man in charge of the 2017 mo­tor, but M-sport’s tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor Chris­tian Lo­ri­aux has had an in­volve­ment in the process as much as his Bent­ley and World RX com­mit­ments have al­lowed.

Wil­son Sr reaches for his mo­bile tele­phone. “Have a look at this,” he says, find­ing an email from Lo­ri­aux.

The Bel­gian’s typ­i­cally blunt: “Bloody hell boss this new car is so im­pres­sive!!!”

From a man cred­ited with rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing rally car de­sign 15 years ago, that’s se­ri­ous praise for Wil­liams and his team.

Mov­ing into our third lap and third diff map un­der sunny Septem­ber skies in Greystoke, it’s im­pos­si­ble to dis­agree.

By now, 380 horses have taken their toll in some of the slower sec­tions of the stage we’re us­ing – the ruts are deep and get­ting deeper. But the car’s quick and get­ting quicker.

Noth­ing phases the car in the slight­est and Wil­son Ju­nior’s speed is hugely im­pres­sive.

To­day’s not about Matthew, but this re­minder that his nat­u­ral tal­ent is a wel­come by-prod­uct of what’s been a gen­uinely eye-open­ing day.

“It’ll def­i­nitely be a bit sad when the test and de­vel­op­ment work comes to an end,” says Wil­son. “I just love driv­ing this car. Hav­ing said that, I was never the big­gest fan of the Monte and if it’s a tricky one, I won’t be pan­ick­ing too much about not be­ing in the car. But if Swe­den’s a proper one with good ice and snow…”

The sen­tence is left hang­ing. It doesn’t need fin­ish­ing.

This unique in­sight into what M-sport have planned for next sea­son has left me more ex­cited than ever about the next gen­er­a­tion of World Rally Cars. We have be­come fix­ated on more horses and big­ger, bolder aero, but there’s so much more to next year’s cars. Un­doubt­edly, they will be quicker, but they’re also go­ing to be so much more ef­fi­cient, so much more dy­namic and so much more ex­cit­ing than the cars we’ll see in Catalunya this week. And, let’s face it, the cars in Salou are al­ready pretty spe­cial.

It was with a heavy heart that I turned south and left Matthew, Mal­colm and Ge­of­frey in the woods – a heavy heart, but a stronger sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion than ever about the start of a new sea­son.

Monte Carlo can’t come soon enough. ■

Test­ing ace Wil­son Jr The ex­haust is now cen­tre mounted at the rear of the new Fi­esta A sec­ond chas­sis is due to be up and run­ning in Spain soon

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