The first-ever hybrid car to compete at the front of the World Rally Championship was revealed on Thursday at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
It was undoubtedly a big moment for the WRC but also for M-Sport as it was the British team that unveiled its 2022 challenger: the Ford Puma Rally1.
Malcolm Wilson is no stranger to new rally car launches. Indeed, his M-Sport team has run Ford’s WRC concern through several regulation changes since 1997 meaning Wilson knows what it’s all about.
But there’s something special about this hybrid Rally1 ruleset that has put a spring in his step. DirtFish sat down with the M-Sport managing director to learn more about the Puma project.
When did you first think about the 2022 car?
We started work on the car basically at the start of last year. Of course, the technical regulations were still evolving within the FIA because of all the crash tests and safety tests they were doing but we got the basic concept approved by the FIA around January time. Then we immediately embarked on the project.
Is this a brand-new car?
This is a brand-new car, basically along the lines of what the 2017 car was but obviously a lot of changes in the technical directions. We’re not allowed as much aero as on the ’17 car and a lot of the basic structure of the car is from the R5, the really successful Rally2 category, so we’re back down to a manual gearshift, we don’t have a active center differential so in many ways it is a much simpler car. But then of course you come on [to] the hybrid which is all new technology and it’s new for everybody.
Is all your R5 experience helpful?
I don’t think it’s just what we do with R5/Rally2, it’s everything we’ve been doing, all of M-Sport’s been doing for over 20 years. I’ve got a lot of people that have been with the company a long time so we’ve got a lot of experience. But I’ve got to say that with this particular project with the hybrid side and the technology we’ve had incredible support from Ford in the US and we’ve been given the incredible resources available to us to hopefully put us in a really strong position. I think it’s fair to say that without that support we wouldn’t have been as confident as we are at the moment.
Can you explain more about Ford’s involvement?
It starts from everywhere. The modelling, the simulations, being able to have access to the moving floor windtunnel. We’ve also had the opportunity as well to use the sim so it’s been a big advantage for the drivers to be able to relate back from the sim to the car and with driving both you can speed up the process of development.
How does this car stack up against previous ones?
It’s a big technical challenge for us because it’s the first time we haven’t used a production-based bodyshell for the Rally1 category. It’s a tubular steel frame which is something we haven’t done previously so that’s been quite a big challenge, but once again we’ve got all the resources and facilities to manufacture that type of structure. And of course there’s much more carbon content on the panels and the inside of it. Plus of course the hybrid side as well.
Have you had a go in this one yet?
I haven’t had a go in this one yet. I must admit I went to Greystoke and I watched the thing perform and I came away thinking it’s probably best if I don’t get in this car. It was so, so impressive and I could even see from watching from the outside what a good job and how impressive this car is going to be.
We’ve had to keep a lot of things under wraps and to be honest with you we’re not giving anything away at the momentMalcolm Wilson
Disappointing compared to 2017 cars?
You’re certainly not in for a disappointment from any of the tests I’ve seen. It’s the most impressive-looking rally car that we’ve ever had in Greystone forest that’s for sure. For the fans and everybody it’s going to be another great era and there’s certainly not going to be any disappointed people when the cars start performing in 2022.
Fantastic to see it up and running?
Yeah, it’s great. We launched the car here at Goodwood because obviously we’ve had to keep a lot of things under wraps and to be honest with you we’re not giving anything away at the moment. It’s nice now we can be a little bit more open about what we’re doing and what the car is looking like for next season.
Have you hit any issues?
Like any testing program you always find something but I’m very confident from what I’ve seen and seeing all the feedback and reading all the test reports. I really feel we’re in good shape, in a good position, so I really just can’t wait for Monte Carlo.