What did you do this Tuesday? Our Tuesday wasn’t as cool as Matthew Wilson’s. Matthew made history in a rally car.
Just north of Barcelona, Wilson pulled on his M-Sport Ford overalls and ran a hybrid Rally1 car in anger for the very first time. Nobody else has done that. Until now, the 2022 test car has run with ballast in place of the battery. But now the Compact Dynamics supplied motors and Kreisel batteries are all aboard working a treat.
DirtFish joins Wilson for an exclusive debrief on a very big day for M-Sport and the World Rally Championship, and gets the lowdown on driving the car in his own words…
Today’s the day
Generally, the first day of testing has been OK. Good, actually. We did a roll-out with the car in this form, but today was the first running on the gravel. The road was damp this morning after some overnight rain, but it dried during the day. It was smooth-ish gravel.
We started running at nine this morning and finished at quarter past six in the evening. That was our allotted running time.
As you’ll have seen, we’ve been running the 2022 chassis on a couple of tests before now and everything has gone really well. We’ve got through a lot of kilometers running aero trimmed into 2022 specification and with the new transmission set-up.
Today wasn’t about putting kilometers down, today was about going out, doing a run and bringing the car back in for a debrief. There’s so much for everybody to learn. So much to talk about.
So, literally, we were doing that. Out for a run, back to make some changes and debrief, back out and same again. It’s been a very successful day, we have learned a hell of a lot just in one day and, I’d say, it’s been invaluable for us.
There were no show-stopping problems, in fact, nothing at all that’s stopped the car.
Every time we’ve stopped it’s been for a reason and, like I say, to bank more data. Genuinely, we’ve had a bloody good day. Naturally, I wanted to be out there driving the car as much as possible, but this is a completely new era and we had to go through those processes.
The battery and the boost
We haven’t driven the car with 100% battery yet. That’s what we’ve been working up towards through the first day. It wouldn’t have been the best plan to come in and go wham, bam and full battery straight away. I think that could be a job for first thing tomorrow [Wednesday] morning. There’s so much more power and energy going through the transmission and chassis, we had to take our time and make sure everything was feeling right. It definitely is.
Even though we haven’t had 100%, what I can tell you is that we’ve had enough of a boost from the battery and what I really can tell you is that when it comes, you definitely know it’s there! It’s a proper kick up the backside when it comes.
From the weight side, because we’ve run with the ballast, I didn’t notice it. It’s definitely not the first thing you’d talk about when you get in the car.
The difference a year makes
Everything on the car is running in 2022 specification. I’ve got to be honest and say it’s so long since I drove a current Fiesta WRC outside of Greystoke that I’m not totally up to speed with the absolute latest aero – but for me there’s not a massive difference with this car. It’s pretty hard to tell in terms of absolute difference.
For the transmission, I really don’t mind the sequential shift over the paddles. I actually think it’s going to make it a much more involved drive for the guys. And the same with the center differential.
OK, it would be nice to have one – especially when you get to the really tricky, muddy places and to deal with the extra weight in the car, but it’s absolutely not the end of the world. I think the difference is that I’ve driven a fair few R5/Rally2 cars in testing recently and you don’t have them in those cars, so you don’t notice so much.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the guy who’s going to be driving these things at every round of the championship next season, trying to win a world championship, but what you have to do is optimize what you’ve got in the car. And there’s plenty in these cars to keep you interested!
You know me, I just love driving cars and being here at the start of a new era is something special. I’m really excited about these cars and the next generation. If you think, in some ways the cars are maybe a little bit less of a challenge for the engineers and from the technical side in terms of transmission and aero, but bringing the hybrid in has really presented the technical guys around the service park with something to think about.
And when it comes to driving the Ford next year, they will definitely have something to think about!