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GP Week : Issue 156
It was a special moment at the end of Stage 12 on the Saturday in Greece when Sebastien Loeb admitted he was going absolutely flat-out and both the team Ford cars were still faster. Fiestas have now led the last seven WRC events, starting with Rally GB 2011, even if they have only won two straight-out and one by default. Is the Fiesta now fully competitive against its DS3 rivals? It takes a lot of different attributes to make a championship-winning rally car, over and above the special qualities of the people driving them. Widely discussed in Greece was the suggestion that the Ford now appears to be equally as fast as the Citroen, notwithstanding the advantage for the French car of using a completely purpose-designed ‘Global’ rules engine. Drivers in Greece reported that the Ford seemed faster on twistier roads, meaning a better chassis, and the Citroen on faster stretches, suggesting the Citroen still has a better engine. Split times also indicated the Citroens had an advantage on slow uphill stretches with superior traction away from loose tight corners. For many years the Citroen cars have enjoyed better traction than the Ford, which means better tyre wear performance – and better tyre consistency through the stages. Greece is traditionally the roughest rally in the WRC, and the flat-out tactics of the drivers suggest that Fords have the advantage of being stronger cars. Recent development on the Fiesta chassis has shown that their cars seem to be getting consistently stronger, with new sub-frames earlier in the year and now the suspension upgrades, coupled with the advantages of the new gear ratios introduced in Portugal. M-Sport Technical Director Christian Loriaux confirms “We have homologated a new strengthened suspension triangle design which was first used by the Castrol cars in Greece. The speed of our drivers now means that they seem to hit too many rocks, so we have now reinforced the suspension and a suspension link.” Ford development this year began with a new cross-member in January in Monte Carlo. It wasn’t needed for Monte Carlo as it was intended for use on gravel. In Portugal the cars were fitted with new gear ratios. Loriaux: “We are allowed two sets of gear ratios and until now we had only homologated one since the beginning of the life of the car, so this was the second one. Now we have a choice of two. This new option is better suited for gravel use but for asphalt rallies we will use the old ratios.” Interestingly this option is also available for the RRC (30mm S2000) cars as well as the World Rally Car, though it wasn’t designed with the RRC in mind. Loriaux believes Ford’s speed in recent rallies has only partly been due to the change in gear ratios, suggesting that this year the Fords have been competitive everywhere, even before they introduced the new ratios. Both Citroen and Ford show outstanding reliability: “Ford’s only unexpected problem this year was Sordo’s alternator failure in Argentina. Some cars have suffered bent TCAs (track control arm triangles) but a lot of cars haven’t. Usually the TCAs fail because they have been under impact. “Before we went to Mexico we took Petter to a very rough gravel test where he said he thought the Fiesta car felt indestructible, saying he couldn’t have done half the things with the Citroen (the old DS3 cars he rallied previously) that he could now do with the Fiesta.” Works or private, the Fiestas seem to be amazingly strong. The Acropolis was the 16th event which the car that Mads Ostberg is driving (chassis 5) has been on a world championship rally. Doesn't that say that the Fiesta design was over-engineered? “Yes, you could say that, couldn’t you!” OPINION MARTIN HOLMES Rally Editor STRENGTH THE KEY FOR FAST FORDS OPINION 26 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: