Speaking at today's pre-season online press conference Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally team principle Malcolm Wilson was bullish about his team's chances in this year's World rally Championship. He opened by saying that it's a very exciting time at...
Ford Abu Dhabi 2011: New season, new toys!
Speaking at today's pre-season online press conference Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally team principle Malcolm Wilson was bullish about his team's chances in this year's World rally Championship. He opened by saying that it's a very exciting time at M-Sport. "We're entering a new season with a new car [for the new regulations] and with new technology and I believe that we're in the strongest position we've ever been in." His aim is simple, Ford want the constructors championship this year. And if they pick up their first ever driver's crown on the way it will be a nice bonus.
Part of the team's confidence is the fact that instead of the usual frantic two or three months to prepare a new car with two or three days of testing before an event they have had the luxury of almost a year since Mikko Hirvonen won the 2010 Monte Carlo in a S2000 version of the car to develop it... although not too much is similar to it's cousin.
Team Technical Director Christian Loriaux explained how almost every part from the S2000 car has been optimised for weight, strength and reliability so that practically only the chassis remains the same. "The biggest challenge is definitely the new engine with the direct injection system," he said. "It's used in areas such as the Le Mans series, but never before in a touring car or rally car." Developing such a complex system seems to be clearly against the series' efforts to dramatically reduce costs, but Loriaux explained. "It was the same in the past with the indirect injections systems that were in the regulations, but the WRC is where we develop road-going technology and now not a single car in the world is made with a carburetor."
Motor sports is and always will be a place for cutting edge technology.
Ford's two Finnish drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala are equally enthusiastic about the new Fiesta and are sure that the power loss that comes with reduction in engine size from a 2 litre to a 1.6 turbo will be compensated by the improved agility of a smaller car. "During the tests we were learning the car, changing the set-up to see how it reacts and I can say that it is much quicker to to react. The balance is really good and with the shorter car the weight is more in the centre and the back axle drags less than the Focus. But Sweden will be a learning curve. You could lean the Focus into the snow banks at the side of the road to help it around the corners, but with the Fiesta, as the back wheels are closer, you have to be really careful because if you are not prepared for it the front is pulled around really quickly."
Hirvonen, who came second in the 2009 championship by a single point, added, "The extra handling capabilities and the six speed gearboxs mean that the Fiesta is excellent on tarmac." But the team will have to hope that the new rules will have negated Citroen's long held dominance on sealed surface events. Blue Oval nemesis and seven-time world champion Sebastian Loeb has an incredible record on tarmac, loosing out just a couple of times since 2004 so if the titles are to be wrestled out of the French squad's grip the new Fiesta's performance will need to be as aggressive as it's appearance.
Hirvonen's relaxed last words echoed Wilson's earlier statement that no one really knows what to expect on next weeks Swedish rally. "New season, new toys," he smiled.
And there will be no taking it easy to preserve untested components or driving conservatively in an effort to get to the end of the event and accrue as many test kilometres as possible; Wilson has given his drivers the green light to drive flat out. From the first Super Special in Karlstad next Thursday evening the whole team is focused on nothing but victory.