The shakedown that is ready to kickstart a new era in the World Rally Championship for M-sport
The junction of the B5305 and B5302 in the centre of Wigton was the place to be last Friday. Locals in the Cumbrian town are used to seeing M-sport’s rally cars being driven through, but the sight of the first Ford Fiesta WRC with Sebastien Ogier’s name on it was enough to make even the most nonchalant stop and stare.
Ogier wasn’t doing the driving, of course. That job was left to David Lindsay, M-sport’s shakedown driver.
It was him, not the four-time world champion, who put the first miles on the all-new car and he who put it into stage mode and launched it off the line for the first time.
“We always drive the cars from the factory over to the airfield, where we shake them down,” Lindsay explains. “Those road miles are a really important part of the process as well. It simulates a road section, stopping and starting in places like Wigton. I always have my wits about me, but I was maybe a wee bit more cautious with this car!
“When we get to the airfield, the car was checked over. After that it was a full acceleration run one way up the main runway. That’s off the line and flat in every gear. We turned around at the top end and did the same in the opposite direction. Again, everything was checked after that and then we did two runs at a five-kilometre (3.5-mile) asphalt stage.
“That whole process was repeated once the spare transmission was fitted to the car. I’ve been shaking cars down for the last 12 years and I’ve driven some pretty special motors, including the Bentley [Continental GT3] for the first time and Ken Block’s rallycross car. But this one was just that bit special – firstly because these 2017 cars are incredible, but also because this was Seb’s car.”