Ford’s decision to retire the Fiesta name from sale next year sent shockwaves through the automotive world. Because to many, the Fiesta is more than just a small hatchback – it’s an institution of modern society.
The Fiesta was a model for all people – whether it be a first car, a daily runabout, a sports car in its ST guise or even a family car, it catered for all roadgoing needs.
But it wasn’t just on the public highways that the Fiesta forged a name for itself. It was a hugely successful platform in the world of motorsport too – particularly rallying and rallycross.
Sébastien Ogier’s two World Rally Championship titles in 2017 and ’18 were the peak of the Fiesta’s motorsport achievements, but it has tasted plenty of rallying triumphs in the lower ranks and won title after title Stateside in rallycross too.
DirtFish has decided to pay tribute to the Fiesta by celebrating its rally and rallycross achievements – conveniently written by two Fiesta owners, Dominik Wilde and Luke Barry:
The car that really put M-Sport on the map was the Focus, but in terms of titles won, the Fiesta stands at the top of the tree.
When WRC regulations evolved for 2011, mandating manufacturers use smaller models, the Focus – which won two manufacturers titles and 44 rallies – was traded for the Fiesta, and the new machine locked out the podium straight out of the box in Sweden.
It was competitive from the off, and sounded fantastic too. But despite the best efforts of Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, the Fiesta wasn’t quite able to beat the Loeb/Citroën juggernaut to the world title.
Hirvonen jumped ship for 2012 but the Fiesta remained a winner in the hands of Latvala – but in the years after the Fiesta RS WRC would undergo a dry spell thanks to the dominance of Volkswagen’s Polo R WRC.
Although plenty of podiums were scored by the likes of Thierry Neuville, Mads Østberg, Ott Tänak and Elfyn Evans, it wouldn’t be until the second Fiesta WRC was born that Ford’s hatch would return to the top of the podium.
And what a return to glory it was. VW’s sudden exit made Ogier a free agent and Malcolm Wilson snapped him up, giving his new car for the revised 2017 regulations a world champion driver. It was a fairytale as M-Sport swooped to a drivers’ and manufacturers’ double – and who can forget that day of days when Tänak secured the manufacturers’ title, Ogier the drivers’ and Evans his first ever WRC win in Wales all within a matter of minutes.
There’d be no repeat manufacturers’ success the following year as Tänak moved on to Toyota, but Ogier doubled up on his drivers’ title with a win on Rally GB 2018 proving to be the Fiesta’s last at world level – despite Evans coming close in 2019.
The 2020s weren’t a golden period for the Fiesta WRC as COVID-19 exaggerated M-Sport’s budget deficit to rivals Toyota and Hyundai, meaning quite quickly the onus was placed on developing the Fiesta’s successor – the Puma Rally1.
Perhaps the Fiesta’s biggest rallying success has been on the row below the WRC though. In 2010 the S2000 was born and won straight out of the box courtesy of Hirvonen on the Monte, and it won the inaugural SWRC title that year with Xevi Pons too.
But it was the next second-tier Fiesta, the R5, that would prove revolutionary. It still stands today as the most commercially successful car ever to be produced at M-Sport with over 250 examples sold and multiple rallies and titles clinched around the world. The Fiesta still continues at this level to this day in its updated Rally2 guise.
At lower levels, the Fiesta has been an ever-present this century too. Whether it was the original Group N ST that formed the backbone of several sporting trophies around Europe, the R2 that followed or the Rally4 that’s now in production, the Fiesta has long been a front-wheel-drive car key to kickstarting many careers.
The four-wheel-drive Rally3 is also on offer and is currently the car responsible for unearthing the WRC’s next big talents in the Junior WRC. You’d be hard pushed to find a modern rally star who, at some point, hasn’t driven a Fiesta at some point in thier career.
It’s going to feel very strange when the day finally comes that there are none left in the WRC.
There was a time when the term ‘Ford Fiesta’ was pretty much a synonym for ‘rallycross car’. In the 2010s, when rallycross was establishing a footing in the United States and the discipline’s top tier in Europe was evolving into a full world championship, the car was a fixture everywhere.
In America, it was the car to have until Volkswagen arrived in the middle of the decade, taking two wins from three in 2010, seven from eight in 2011, four from six in 2012 and eight from nine in 2013. It won drivers’ titles every year from 2010-14 and three straight manufacturers’ crowns from 2013-15, the first three years such a championship was awarded.
Most of that success was courtesy of the Olsbergs MSE-developed Mk.7 Fiesta, a car that also spawned Gymkhana and Pikes Peak variants – the latter now a part of the DirtFish collection.
But in 2014 Ken Block brought an M-Sport derivative over, with four more examples following for various other entrants the year after. With the OMSE platform getting a bit long in the tooth (albeit remaining competitive taking a drivers’ title in 2014 and three event wins across ‘14 and ‘15), the M-Sport version gave the nameplate a shot in the arm.
Block, Patrik Sandell, Steve Arpin and Brian Deegan all won in the R5-based machine, with Block, Sandell, and Arpin all mounting solid title challenges at various points over the latter days of Global Rallycross.
In Europe, where a wider range of machinery was available, the Fiesta didn’t claim a European title until 2018 with Reinis Nitišs (Ford as a brand, however, was wildly successful with other models before that).
At world level, the car won the inaugural world championship for teams, and also notched up six event wins between 2014-19. The last of those came in Sweden in 2019, when Sebastian Eriksson starred on a wildcard appearance.
That was in the latest, Mk.8 derivative of the car, which – rather ironically – was made available to customers for the first time on the very day Ford announced the end of the Fiesta’s production in road form.
Though the Fiesta will forever be something of an icon when we look back at the Supercar era of top-level rallycross in years to come, its influence on the discipline as a whole will perhaps be best remembered in a category it never properly raced in.
Of course, I’m talking about RX Lites – rallycross’ premier development class since 2013.
While the one-make category – contested alongside the US, world, and Nordic championships – utilized a spaceframe chassis and scaled down fiberglass body, that bodywork resembled the Mk.7 Fiesta. The power plant was based on a Ford engine as well.
Many of the last decade’s top stars cut their teeth in the category, including the likes of Kevin and Oliver Eriksson, Kevin Hansen and Cyril Raymond to name just a few; even NASCAR champion Austin Cindric raced and won in an RX Lite.
These days the category is known as RX2e in Europe and is all-electric, but the Fiesta’s visual influence remains ever-present. Another electric category, the unrelated and ultimately short-lived Projekt E class, used Fiestas as the basis for all but one of its entries in 2020, too.
The Ford Fiesta has been one of the world’s most popular cars ever since its introduction in 1976 and that popularity translated into the rallycross paddock. It’s already been pretty sad seeing the car’s numbers dwindle in recent years, but the thought of it disappearing entirely, both on-track and off, is unthinkable.
But at least I’ll still get to enjoy the Mk.8 ST 3 parked on my driveway for a few more years.