NEW FORD FOCUS WORLD RALLY CAR UNVEILED
An all-new Ford Focus World Rally Car makes its debut at this year’s Paris Motor Show.
The Ford Focus World Rally Car (WRC) is designed to put Ford in the winner's circle in the 1999 FIA World Rally Championship, commencing with the opening round, the Monte Carlo Rally, in January. The Ford Focus WRC will be driven by former World Champion and new Ford signing Colin McRae and co-driver Nicky Grist.
The World Rally Car has been conceived as a fully integrated part of the development and engineering process of the Ford Focus, with input from the rally team from the very beginning of the program. The rally car, like the road car, is all-new, sharing few parts with the Ford Escort World Rally Car. The Ford Escort has, during the past 30 years, won more rallies than any other competition vehicle.
“The Ford Focus road car was created by a team who believed that their passion for quality and unrelenting attention to detail could produce a class-leading product,” said Philippe Mellier, Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Service for Ford’s European operations, during the car’s unveiling at the Paris Motor Show. “So far, their belief is being validated strongly by critical acclaim in the media. The same commitment has been applied in developing the Ford Focus WRC. Thanks to the real integration between road and rally car development, we know that whatever results the rally car might achieve for Ford, the customer is already the winner. In addition, Ford has a long history of providing enthusiasts with performance cars which are closely related to competition machinery and we will continue to look closely at these opportunities."
“Ford is unique in being a major player in the two highest levels of world motorsport — Formula 1 and the World Rally Championship,” adds Martin Whitaker, Director of Ford’s European Motorsport. “Of the two, rallying is undoubtedly the area of motorsport which is most relevant to the development of road cars.
“To maximise these benefits, we believe there are two things you must do. First, you must be a consistent competitor, as Ford has been — almost without a break — in the history of top-class rallying. To come in and out of the sport, using it purely as a marketing tool, would ignore the real benefits which can flow from rallying into the cars customers will buy in the showrooms,” Whitaker says.
“In addition, it is vital that the rally car is not just a spin-off from a new product, but must instead be an integral part of the program, a source of genuine feedback and cross-over of expertise between road and rally car development.
“With the road car, it was the commitment to total integration between the various teams working on the chassis, engine, package, bodyshell and so on that enabled Ford Focus to lead its class in so many areas. We extended this philosophy to encompass the rally car program, ensuring that it was very much a part of the thinking that shaped the Ford Focus from the outset,” Whitaker continues. “We believe that the kind of passion, which has driven all aspects of the design and development of the Ford Focus, is reflected in the Ford Focus World Rally Car, which is the ultimate expression of the exciting and rewarding driving dynamics that are at the heart of every Ford Focus.”
In developing the World Rally Car, the Ford Focus team from the Small and Medium Vehicle Centre at Dunton, UK, and Cologne, Germany worked with engineers from the Ford World Rally Team, based at their new research and development base at Millbrook in Bedfordshire, UK.
This extensive co-operation has seen Ford World Rally Team engineers — led by project manager Guenther Steiner — able to call upon the design CAD data and expertise of the road car development teams, and to exploit the class-leading features of the road-going Focus to help create the Focus WRC.
“With the recent signing of Colin McRae, we think we have the world’s fastest rally driver. We are determined to put him in the world's fastest rally car,” commented Malcolm Wilson, director of the Ford World Rally Team. “The Ford Focus road car has many fundamental attributes, which form the basis of a great rally car. The class-leading chassis, for instance, gives the Ford Focus great stability as both a road and rally car, and the long wheelbase also gives us the opportunity to package many more components in the centre of the car, optimising the weight distribution.
“Aerodynamically, the Ford Focus is very efficient, and the body shape offers great all-round visibility — which is surprisingly important when travelling sideways. Having good basic aerodynamics also allowed us to retain the physical appearance and character of the Ford Focus, rather than creating a spoiler-equipped kit car, barely recognisable as the car customers can buy. I think what we have produced looks like a Ford Focus on steroids, perfectly suited to carry the flag for the Ford Focus range," Wilson continues.
“Another fundamental advantage of the road-going Ford Focus is its inherent body stiffness. It is 15 per cent stiffer than the best of its competitors, which contributes to its excellent driving dynamics. This enabled us to create a stiffer rally car without adding as much weight in the form of strengthening material as might be necessary with a less rigid car,” Wilson says.
“The driving dynamics of the Ford Focus — especially the way in which it responds to the driver’s inputs, thanks to minimisation of friction throughout the steering and suspension — is clearly critical when driving on the limit on FIA World Championship Rallies,” he adds.
“The excellent platform of the road car provided the best possible start to develop the rally car suspension to give maximum confidence to the driver. The 2.0-litre Ford Zetec E engine also provides a strong base from which to develop the turbocharged unit for the Focus WRC,” Wilson says. The transverse 4-cylinder turbocharged Zetec E engine drives the Focus WRC through a six-speed sequential gearbox, with power distributed via hydraulically controlled active differentials. The rear differential has unusually good ground clearance for its type, which is particularly important in a rally car.
Rather than designing the turbocharger and then adding the mandatory 34 millimetre air restrictor required by rally regulations, the turbocharger has been developed with the restrictor as an integral part of the design parameters from the outset, improving efficiency and response.
As well as being stiffer than its competitors, the road-going Ford Focus also has the lightest body structure in its class. Starting with this advantage, the Ford World Rally team members believe that the Focus WRC will make its debut on the Monte Carlo Rally at the minimum permitted weight limit, thanks also to the use of lightweight materials, such as carbon fibre and titanium. The Ford Focus WRC has a 52 per cent front / 48 per cent rear weight distribution, with the weight carried as low-down as possible. In addition, the fuel tank is accommodated inside the wheelbase for optimum stability, as is the engine, which is tilted backwards by 25 degrees to help achieve further centralisation of weight.