M-Sport Poland managing director Maciej Woda wants this. He wants his company’s Ford Fiesta Rally3 to be challenged in the fledgling category. But will he be so happy to have the competition this time next year?
Renault Sport has brought the game to M-Sport Poland. Its all-new Clio Rally3 finished its development phase late last month after six successful test sessions on both Tarmac and gravel in France and Spain, and will be homologated by the FIA in the spring.
Then, finally, there will be competition between manufacturers in rallying’s third tier.
Woda has confirmed to DirtFish that the Fiesta is undergoing development in the off season, and it stands as the clear benchmark as an established car for almost two years now.
But that raises an obvious question. Did Renault simply use a Fiesta as the base for creating the Clio, and then better it where it could?
Apparently not, according to chief engineer of Renault Customer Racing Yann Paranthoën.
“We did our own development,” Paranthoën told DirtFish.
“We didn’t want to do a comparison between the Clio and the Fiesta because it’s not very easy to do it during the development as we don’t have a lot of days to develop the car and if you want to do a very good, proper comparison between the Fiesta and the Clio you need to be very clever and do a lot of runs with the Fiesta and do a lot of runs with the Clio.
“So you don’t have a very good comparison because you cannot do a lot of runs with the Fiesta because you want to work on the Clio development. So the comparison is not very clear.
“Therefore we don’t do it, but our goal is to be, let’s say, between one second and 1.5s [per kilometer] slower than Rally2 cars.”
Funnily enough, that would put the Clio in the very same ballpark as the Fiesta.
“We are quite proud of our Clio and we’ll see at the beginning of 2023 with the timesheet the comparison,” Paranthoën added.
But he did reveal that one of the Clio’s development drivers did have previous experience of the Fiesta.
“Yes, we had Jean-Baptiste Franceschi who did only one race in the Fiesta,” Paranthoën said, “but it’s a comparison.
“And we did, during the last two days of development, customer runs so some of the customers drove Fiesta so we can do some comparison but let’s say we are very focused on our Clio and not on the Fiesta.”
Paranthoën may understandably be very focused on his very own creation, but we all want to know how the Clio will stack up. So we placed a call to Franceschi.
“Honestly during the development I was really focused on the work I had to do and I was not like ‘I want to compare the two cars.’ No, I was not like this,” he told DirtFish.
“That was not my vision. But for sure at the end we always want to compare the two cars because there’s only two cars now in Rally3.
“I did only a Tarmac rally [Croatia in Junior WRC] with the Fiesta so it’s not easy to say because it was a long time ago, but for me both cars are similar but let’s say a bit different.
“On the engine, the Renault is strong because it’s not three cylinders, it’s four – the noise is different and it’s really, really nice to hear on the Renault.
“And then on the chassis for me Renault did really strong work. I can’t wait to see a big fight between the two cars.”
Us too, J-B. But can we expect one car to be far stronger than the other?
“I think, for me, for example on a Tarmac rally like Roma in ERC or something like this I think the Clio will be stronger.
“But on the rallies on gravel like Poland or Latvia, I think the fight will be nice to see because the Fiesta is really fast already on this kind of road and the Renault has to prove what she’s able to do.”
The Clio is the pretender, the Fiesta is the benchmark. Which will prove to be the more successful?
As Paranthoën said, we’ll see on the timesheets very soon.
But quite frankly, it’s just great to contemplate a busier Rally3 class next season. Hopefully M-Sport and Renault won’t remain the only two guests at the party for long.