Armin Schwarz could return to the World Rally Championship at October’s Rally Spain with a state-of-the-art steer-by-wire Ford Fiesta Rally2 MkII.
Schwarz is working with German automotive technology firm Paravan from the Schaeffler Group to run cars without steering columns.
Paravan’s interest is directed towards autonomous road cars, but it is using a rally development program to fast-track the all-new technology.
Schwarz, winner of the 1991 edition of Rally Spain, is running the development effort at his own Area 39 test venue near Halberstadt in central Germany. He is convinced the system could work in rallying.
“It’s really an exciting development,” Schwarz told DirtFish. “It’s incredible to see the technology going into this.
“Paravan wanted to take the system to a really harsh and quite extreme environment. We are using the Fiesta, driving at rally speed on the gravel roads we have here, where we can generate extreme shock loadings for the steering.”
For 30 years when I was competing the feeling came from the steering; that belief has now been reversed, the feeling comes through the seat and chassisArmin Schwarz on driving without a steering column
Schwarz is hoping the FIA and Spanish WRC organizer allow the Paravan Fiesta to run as a course car on the Salou-based event.
“Spain is probably the best opportunity,” said Schwarz.
“Paravan is keen to see how the car is running through the stages – but this would also be a fantastic opportunity to show the [WRC] teams the technology we have on the car and point out the benefits.”
Schwarz admitted driving without a steering column had taken him a while to get used to.
“When you start, it does feel weird,” he added. “I was thinking for 30 years when I was competing that the feeling comes from the steering; you hit a patch of ice on a Monte Carlo stage and the steering would go light.
“That belief has now been reversed, that feeling comes through the seat and chassis.”