Ford Fiesta WRC: technical and historical analysis of a Legend

One of the most impressive features of the Ford Fiesta WRC is its aerodynamics, meticulously designed in every detail. With prominent front, side, and rear appendages, the car generates aerodynamic downforce that keeps it glued to the ground even in the most demanding curves.

Competition is the beating heart that fuels the passion of both drivers and fans. Not even rallying can escape this rule. And when it comes to rally cars, few have captured the imagination and tenacity like the Ford Fiesta WRC. This competition beast is the brainchild of M-Sport, led by the legendary Malcolm Wilson, and was designed to dominate the challenging terrains of the World Rally Championship (WRC). The arrival of the Fiesta WRC in 2017 marked a new chapter in Ford’s epic rally saga. Replacing its predecessor, the Fiesta RS WRC, which roared on the world’s tracks from 2011 to 2016, this new incarnation was conceived from a blank sheet. Led by the brilliant chief engineer of M-Sport, Chris Williams, the team responded to the new WRC Plus specifications approved by the FIA for the 2017 season.

The Fiesta WRC was designed to excel in all race conditions. With WRC Plus specifications requiring more powerful, lightweight cars with visible aerodynamic appendages, the challenge was to make the car not only fast but also manageable. The answer? Cutting-edge technology in every component. The heart of the Fiesta WRC is a turbocharged engine that unleashes incredible power, propelling the car through varied terrains with ease. But it’s not just the power that makes the difference; traction management, suspension setup, and weight distribution have been optimized to ensure precise and responsive driving.

One of the most impressive features of the Fiesta WRC is its aerodynamics, meticulously designed in every detail. With prominent front, side, and rear appendages, the car generates aerodynamic downforce that keeps it glued to the ground even in the most demanding curves. This not only enhances stability but also allows drivers to push to the limit without losing control. From the ice of the Scandinavian forests to the gravel roads of African deserts, the Fiesta WRC was designed to dominate on any terrain. Its versatility and reliability have made it a formidable presence on every track, earning respect and admiration from drivers and enthusiasts worldwide.

The first tests took place at the end of July 2016, after about 12 months of development, on the gravel roads of Cumbria (in northern England) where Czech driver Martin Prokop and team owner Wilson himself tested the new car, declaring themselves satisfied with the speed and mechanics, stating that further refinement of the aerodynamics, crucial for the WRC cars of the new era, was needed. In the first decade of December 2016, M-Sport unveiled the new car (in a provisional all-white livery) in its final form, also revealing its technical details.

The engine, built on an Ecoboost basis, is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder inline direct injection, with a bore of 83 mm and a stroke of 73.9 mm and equipped with a turbocharger with a 36 mm intake restrictor; it delivers a power of 380 hp at 6000 rpm and a maximum torque of 450 Nm (at 5500 rpm). The transmission is permanent all-wheel drive with an active center differential while the front and rear are mechanical, with a six-speed sequential gearbox and multi-disc clutch. The chassis, with a multi-welded roll bar, was designed to increase energy absorption by 20% in case of impacts, to the benefit of structural solidity and safety. The suspensions are of the MacPherson type with adjustable Reiger shock absorbers, while the braking system (manufactured by Brembo) is equipped with four-piston calipers and self-ventilating discs with a diameter of 300 mm in off-road configuration and 370/355 mm (front/rear) on asphalt. The car mounts 18″ wheels on asphalt and 15″ on gravel and snow.

In December 2016, the definitive livery to be used was unveiled, and the three drivers hired for the 2017 season were officially announced, namely the four-time world champion Sébastien Ogier, coming from Volkswagen Motorsport (which withdrew from competitions at the end of 2016), the Estonian Ott Tänak, confirmed, and the Welshman Elfyn Evans, already engaged in the previous year in WRC-2 with the same team, thus relegating the Frenchman Eric Camilli to the junior championship driving a Fiesta R5.

The debut season of the Fiesta WRC

The car immediately demonstrated its competitiveness by achieving the first victory with Sébastien Ogier at the Monte Carlo Rally, marking the fourth consecutive career victory for the French driver in the opening race of the season. Ott Tänak finished third, while Elfyn Evans finished sixth. Three weeks later, at the Rally Sweden, Tänak and Ogier had to settle for second and third place respectively, surpassed by Jari-Matti Latvala in a Toyota Yaris WRC, bringing victory to the Japanese automaker after 18 years. Evans confirmed his sixth-place finish from Monte Carlo. The third event of the year saw the WRC caravan tackle the gravel roads of Mexico, where Ogier again finished second, this time behind Kris Meeke in a Citroën, with Tänak fourth and Evans ninth.

The return to Europe for the Tour de Corse, a race entirely on asphalt, once again saw Ogier on the podium, finishing second behind Thierry Neuville in a Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, while Tänak and Evans finished outside the points. Another trip across the Atlantic to compete in the Rally Argentina saw a remarkable performance by Evans, who led until the penultimate special stage before being overtaken by Neuville by just seven tenths of a second, while Tänak and Ogier finished third and fourth respectively. Mid-May, the return to the European continent with the first gravel race, the Rally Portugal, saw Ogier win again ahead of Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo of Hyundai Motorsport, while Tänak finished fourth and Evans sixth.

The next event, the Rally Italy-Sardinia, saw Ott Tänak achieve his first career victory, with Ogier in fifth place and Evans in 26th place overall following an accident on Friday morning. Three weeks later, at the Rally Poland, Tänak was involved in an intense battle with Thierry Neuville for the final victory, but an error in the penultimate stage forced him to retire. Ogier finished third, while Evans finished eighth. In the Rally Finland, Evans finished second behind Esapekka Lappi, with a lead of just 0.030 seconds over Juho Hänninen (Toyota), while Ogier retired at the fourth stage and Tänak finished seventh.

The Estonian redeemed himself in the Rally Germany, winning the race, while Ogier finished third and Evans sixth. Ogier’s and Tänak’s cars conquered the podium in the subsequent Rally Catalonia, with Evans seventh and wildcard Mads Østberg fifth. In the Rally Great Britain, Elfyn Evans triumphed ahead of Neuville, while Ogier and Ingrassia won the drivers’ title with one race to go, and at the same time, M-Sport won the constructors’ championship for the first time. The season concluded in Australia