Ford Focus RS WRC 04 to launch in New Zealand

Ford unveils 2004 Focus RS rally car in New Zealand Twelve months ago Ford BP Rallye Sport launched the most technically advanced and revolutionary rally car the FIA World Rally Championship has seen. Exactly one year after the Ford Focus RS...

Ford unveils 2004 Focus RS rally car in New Zealand

Twelve months ago Ford BP Rallye Sport launched the most technically advanced and revolutionary rally car the FIA World Rally Championship has seen. Exactly one year after the Ford Focus RS World Rally Car 03 took to the flowing speed tests of the Rally New Zealand, the 2004 version will follow the same path and make its debut there later this month. Here Ford BP technical director Christian Loriaux, the man behind both cars, outlines what has changed on the Focus RS WRC 04 which successfully completed the FIA homologation process this week.

To describe the Focus RS WRC 04 as a new car would be wrong. It is more an evolution of the 03 model. When we first sat down to design the 'new shape' Focus in the middle of May 2002, we began with a clean sheet of paper and we ended with a radical, revolutionary rally car which retained all that was good from the previous model. That car won two rallies last season, claimed a 1-2 finish on its last event as a works car in Mexico last month and achieved our aim of being capable of victory on all surfaces. You don't throw that kind of success into the rubbish bin so the 04 car is essentially the same car with key improvements in several areas.

There are three areas on which we concentrated for homologation - the aerodynamics, the body shell and the engine. The work on the first two was carried out by our engineering department at M-Sport with our engine partner, Cosworth Racing, handling the engine improvements.

New Styling and Cooling Improvements

To the untrained eye the Focus RS WRC 04 looks the same as the 03 version. But a closer look will show that we have redesigned the front bumper and restyled the rear bumper. The front bumper has two new ventilation areas on each side which will improve the cooling system to the engine. We won't see the full benefits of that just yet but once the ducting is in place then we will have a much improved cooling system. A re-styling of the rear bumper is part of the package and the combination of the two is the only visible difference to the car. I think the new styling makes the Focus RS look even more aggressive and adds further to the contemporary look of the car. However, it is still clearly recognisable as a Focus.

Body Shell

Just as important is the work carried out on the body shell. We presented a dossier to the FIA under the 2004 regulations which introduced a lighter body shell for the Focus RS. The new rules mean the minimum weight of the shell is now just 320kgs. We have lightened ours by 10kgs to 330kgs, so we are still 10kgs above the limit. Further weight savings could have been made by taking advantage of the new regulations which permit the use of an aluminium boot and bonnet but the time available to us did not allow for that. Of course, the weight of the car as a whole cannot be less than 1230kgs so the saving on the shell has allowed us to add more ballast. One of the key features of the 03 car was to save weight and, more importantly, distribute it via ballast to those areas of the car where it would improve balance and handling. Our weight saving with the new shell has allowed us to further that process and lower the centre of gravity even more.


The improvements Cosworth Racing has made to the engine are small compared to the huge leap forward we made last year. But nevertheless, they are still an improvement. We've made a weight saving on the turbocharger and also improved the response from the turbo system. There are also modifications to the con rod and piston assembly aimed at reliability rather than outright performance.

As I said earlier, the changes are more of an evolution than anything else. The car has evolved from rally to rally under the skin and we'll continue to make improvements throughout the season, nibbling away at weight and reliability. In Cyprus, for example, we'll introduce new dampers and new electronic settings and these type of changes are crucial to any manufacturer that wants to remain competitive at the front. Development is a continuing process, not something that happens once a year during homologation.

Since we unveiled the new car a year ago, the basics of the car, like the suspension geometry and the transmission have barely changed. But we've improved the set-up of the dampers, introduced a completely different hydraulic system, revised the airbox after our difficulties in Cyprus and brought in a new transfer box in the transmission. This is the type of development we'll continue to work on, introducing new aspects as and when they are ready and when we feel they will bring improvements.

We're not expecting a quantum leap forwards from the homologation changes. What we do expect is to maintain the progress we've made since the car made its debut in New Zealand last year. And if we can achieve that, then the Focus will remain the best car in the championship.

Tim Proctor, principal engineer of Cosworth Racing's World Rally Championship department, takes a closer look at the changes to the already successful Cosworth Duratec R engine.

The days of making huge gains in engine performance are behind us now. Since every manufacturer is forced to run with the FIA restrictor, a WRC engine tends to be at its peak performance almost all the time. We aim to run the maximum amount of air through the restrictor almost all the time and so it is difficult to gain an advantage simply by trying to improve the breathing of the engine.

However, that's not to say that gains in the engine's performance are impossible, just challenging. Performance improvements are achieved not by trying to improve the engine's breathing but by making it work more efficiently, both in its own right and as part of the overall car as a package. Integration is one of the areas we are concentrating on continually. Whereas in the past the engine would have its control system, the transmission would have its own system, the chassis its own system and so on, now we are working closely with the M-Sport engineers to ensure the engine operates as one component within the car as a whole. Therefore, there ultimately will be a single system that controls the complete car, and the engine forms part of that.

We are also making several changes to the components of the 2004 specification engine, again with the aim of reducing weight, improving response and driveability and, as a result, performance. We are implementing a new turbocharger and exhaust manifold as well as other components of the anti-lag system. There is also a new connecting rod that is combined with a revised piston design. Each of these changes is relatively small but, together, mean the 2004 WRC engine takes another step forwards in helping to improve the performance of the car.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Christian Loriaux
Teams M-Sport