How M-Sport is making virtual a reality this year

The Fanatec steering wheel being used in the Puma Rally1 car is the same one that's available to sim racers around the world


M-Sport and Fanatec will work together to ensure virtual meets reality when the World Rally Championship kicks off in Monte Carlo next week.

For the first time ever, a factory Rally1 car will be steered using the same wheel available to sim racers around the world after leading hardware supplier Fanatec joined M-Sport Ford World Rally Team as a technical partner.

The result of the collaboration is a Fanatec steering wheel which encompasses all the technology needed to control the world championship’s first ever hybrid rally cars.

M-Sport drivers including Craig Breen and Sébastien Loeb have worked with Fanatec on the wheel – Breen is a long-time fan of the product, having used it on his sim race-prepared Ford Escort Mk2.

Breen said: “It’s great to be working with Fanatec in preparation for the 2022 season. It’s really interesting to see them take this leap into reality and they have allowed us to get the most out of the Puma Hybrid Rally1 with their steering wheel control panel. I’m looking forward to working with them into the future.”

Fanatec CEO Thomas Jackermeier said that the step from virtual to reality was something his team had been working towards, adding: “Last year Fanatec made huge strides towards our goal of blending real and virtual racing, so we wanted to start 2022 equally strong.

“Working with M-Sport to include Fanatec made parts in the Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 for the upcoming WRC season is another example where the line between motorsport and sim racing is becoming harder to define.


“We’re happy and proud to be part of the new hybrid era of WRC and to give our customers more motorsport-grade products to choose from. If a nine-time world champion like Sébastien Loeb thinks our product is a vital part of the car, then we know we are on the right path.”

M-Sport team principal Richard Millener admitted he’s busier than he was when he used a sim wheel for the first time 15 years ago, but said M-Sport’s partnership with Fanatec had never been more relevant than today.

“I remember when I got my first sim wheel over 15 years ago,” said Millener, “and I have to say the development of this area of gaming is hugely impressive. To now have the same steering wheel that is used in a real life Rally1 car on your home gaming setup is really quite incredible.

“Although I’m not a prolific gamer these days, I do keep an eye on what is happening in the sim world because I truly feel there are genuine benefits that can be transferred from the sim world to the real world. I am really excited to be working with Fanatec and see how we can both continue to improve our products from both real life and sim development work, which will end up in better products and better results for both companies.”

There’s an obvious way to end this story with a line about the lack of a reset button on the four Pumas heading for the French Alps, but we’ll skip that one.

Words:David Evans