Ford builds lighter, stronger, faster Focus

BIRMINGHAM, England, 10 January 2002 - While the Ford Focus RS WRC rally car for 2002 looks much like the 2001 model, beneath that now familiar exterior, every aspect of the car's design and engineering has undergone minute scrutiny by the Ford ...

BIRMINGHAM, England, 10 January 2002 - While the Ford Focus RS WRC rally car for 2002 looks much like the 2001 model, beneath that now familiar exterior, every aspect of the car's design and engineering has undergone minute scrutiny by the Ford Rallye Sport team's engineers driven by three goals - to make the latest version of the Focus lighter, stronger and faster. "Ford came so very close to winning both the drivers' and manufacturers' championship titles last year and we know that the Focus RS WRC is already an extremely good rally car," comments Christian Loriaux, Technical Director Ford Rallye Sport. "To realise fully our car's potential to win even more rallies and those world titles, we knew the 2002 Focus had to become a truly excellent rally car. So, over the last six months our design team's philosophy has been to examine every aspect of the car from the ground up, to build on existing reliability, to lose weight wherever possible and to improve the car's performance in a host of small ways which will add up to significant gains in the season ahead."

New bonnet, new roll-cage, similar shell

The 2002 Focus sports a completely new design of bonnet with an additional air-intake and repositioned vents to improve the under-bonnet airflow, reduce engine bay temperatures, and provide a stronger flow of cooler air to the engine air-intake. Under new FIA rules, all WRC rally cars must be fitted with a rear-view mirror on both doors for 2002 so, combined with the new headlamp units incorporating the turn indicators, the rally car will look even more like its road-going Ford sister car. The rally car's headlamp units are now made from carbon fibre to save weight and are also more compact, freeing space behind them in the engine bay to enhance air circulation.

However, with no changes to the front spoiler or rear wing, the overall aerodynamic balance of the Focus rally car and its downforce-to-drag ratio is similar to that achieved in 2001. The fuel tank size (80 litres) and location are unchanged and with no significant alterations to the location of all major components, the car's weight distribution is broadly similar to 2001, even though the total weight has been reduced so the car must carry ballast to comply with the minimum weight regulations.

Inside the bodyshell there's a revised roll-cage which will make the Focus's crew survival cell even stronger for 2002. Developed jointly by the team's and Ford's German-based engineers using the parent company's giant stress-analysis computers in Cologne, the new cage has increased strength without increased weight.

The cockpit layout beneath that roll-cage will look quite different for 2002. As part of the general drive to lose and lower weight the original dashboard design which echoed that of the Focus road car has been abandoned in favour of a design which aims to make the control panels lighter, mount them lower and use less wiring. The whole profile of the extended fascia is changed with both driver and co-driver now faced with a full-colour, multi-option computer display. The vertical dash centre panel with its display of 35 switches is moved to the transmission tunnel, while the ECUs and handbrake have been repositioned.

Less wiring, less weight with new electronics

The entire electronics system on the 2002 Focus is all-new and designed by the Ford-owned electronics group Pi Research which now has its own department in-house at the Ford Rallye Sport team base in Cumbria. That integration gives a much faster response time, with hardware and software changes demanded by rally team engineers produced in double-quick time. The integration extends to all the electronic equipment a rally team needs off the car, with Pi supplying the software that engineers need to analyse the data downloaded from the rally car.

Together, Pi and rally team electronics staff have spent several months working through the systems and components of the Focus on a mission to lower the 2002 car's centre of gravity and lose weight. Every single component and its location was scrutinized and the latest Focus rally car is equipped with an electronics system that weighs 10% less.

Retaining reliability, boosting engine performance

Like the entire 2002 Focus RS WRC, the latest Cosworth Duratec R engine is an evolutionary development of last year's power unit. "In 2001 we introduced the Evo 2 version of the Duratec R engine at Sanremo with revised cylinder heads and camshafts," explains Malcolm Tyrrell, World Rally Manager at Cosworth Racing. "That engine showed a marked performance upgrade, with good useable power from 3,500 revs, combined with excellent reliability. In fact, from Finland onwards to season end, we had a good clear run without a single engine-related problem. Our goal for 2002 was a tough one, to make an even better performing, but lighter engine with no loss of reliability."

Since joining the Ford world rally championship programme, Cosworth has cut the engine's weight by 16% with reductions in reciprocating, rotating and static masses. With weight reductions a top priority, a further 5% decrease is planned for the early part of this season.

The new engine is fitted with a new Garrett TR30R turbocharger, a new wastegate, and features a three-element friction-reduction package of lighter crankshaft, new connecting rods and a lighter but stiffer flywheel. The cylinder head incorporates detailed improvements to the combustion chambers and gas ports, while the cylinder liners have improved sealing. Further significant changes to the valve train and belt drive are scheduled for introduction at the Corsica Rally in March.

Saving weight with tougher ratios

As well as facing a relocated handbrake, drivers will benefit from a new design of gear lever for 2002. Last year the whole lever moved as the driver selected gears, now the lever stays fixed (and incorporates a small handrest) and just the knob on the end rocks back and forth to select gears.

The six-speed sequential gearbox itself is unchanged, but features improved internals with more durable fifth and sixth gear ratios. The clutch is unchanged, but the hydraulic actuator, which operates the gearbox when the drivers manipulate the gear knob, is now a lighter unit made in-house in Cumbria.

The permanent four-wheel-drive system continues to use 'active' front, centre and rear differentials. Weight savings have been achieved on the system's hydraulic manifolds and numerous sensors.

Steering protection and suspension tuning

The mounting of the power steering pump has been raised by 15 mm for 2002 to increase ground clearance as the previous location proved vulnerable to big impacts despite being protected by the car's sump shield. The Focus's suspension design is carried over from 2001 with its long wheel-travel for good traction over the roughest surfaces. Though it looks the same, the rear suspension is now more adjustable for fine tuning the car's handling and the rear anti-roll bar can be set much stiffer to reduce understeer, particularly on asphalt events.

Race-bred improvements for better braking

The Brembo brakes used on the 2002 Focus look the same as last year but feature new materials to save weight, while the braking system (which is purely mechanical and has no servo-assistance) employs lessons learned by Brembo while supporting the USA's CART single-seater circuit racing series and should give improved braking and consistency of pedal feel with greater resistance to fade at high temperatures. Pirelli Tyres mounted on OZ wheels will again be used throughout 2002. As before, 18 inch diameter wheels will be used on asphalt rallies, 15 inch on gravel events, with special narrow rims for snow-covered stages in Monte Carlo and Sweden.

'Best-ever' world title chances

"The current FIA regulations, which have produced such close-fought and hugely popular rallying between seven major manufacturers, do not encourage a revolutionary approach to rally car design," observes Christian Loriaux. "Consequently, the latest Focus rally car is an evolutionary car, subtly distinguished by having three bonnet vents for 2002 compared to last year's two. But beneath the skin the 2002 Focus RS WRC is a significantly better car. A lighter, stronger and faster car. We believe that it represents Ford's best-ever opportunity to capture both the World Rally Championship crowns."


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Series Automotive , Other rally , WRC
Drivers Christian Loriaux