There is nothing quite like the excitement of an all-new, never-seen-before rally car release. The World Rally Championship’s radical technical overhaul in 2022 only heightens such feverish anticipation.
M-Sport was the first WRC manufacturer to tease a sneak peek at its Rally1 car. Four photos and a burbling engine was all we got.
In 10 months’ time, hybrid Rally1 cars will hit a WRC stage for the very first time, and finally now we have caught a glimpse of what we can expect.
Rally Insight looks at the four photos shared by M-Sport and details what we can learn from each one.
The shape of the brake light and bottom lip of the bootlid suggest that this car is based on a Ford Fiesta rather than the rumoured Ford Puma. Although, as you find out later that does not necessarily mean M-Sport’s first-ever Rally1 car will be based on a Fiesta.
This close-up view looks similar to the bodywork shapes on M-Sport’s current World Rally Car. It is hard to tell, however, if the aggressive rear aerodynamic features are still present.
It is hard to confidently fix the location of this photo. It could be a more centred photo of the bootlid or perhaps somewhere along the side of the car. Wherever it is on the car it suggests that these spaceframe Rally1 monsters will look a bit different to what we are currently used to.
One noticeable feature, however, is the prominent Ford logo. It looks like Ford is back and with Ford Performance also one of the first channels to share the teaser shots on social media it is good news for rally fans.
If there are foundations behind these early indicators then it goes some way to justifying WRC’s move to hybrid power.
Ford’s firepower will be instrumental in not only assisting with M-Sport’s budget but also chipping in with additional technical resource.
Finally, an easy one to decipher! The door handle is a bit of a giveaway but an interesting area is at the bottom of the photo.
It looks like there is a wide tray sitting much higher than normal on the door. Or perhaps the door is lower than we are used to seeing. Or it could also be an extension to the dive planes on M-Sport’s current Fiesta WRC.
Optimising this area could improve airflow and aerodynamic characteristics around the side of the car as well as underneath the chassis.
Rally1 cars are built from a spaceframe chassis rather than a base production chassis. Standard body panels are fitted to the chassis but to allow teams to meet FIA’s dimensional directives they can scale some panels, like the door, to a more suitable size.
This is an opportunity for designers to come up with a chassis structure and bodywork layout that makes it as aerodynamically effective as possible.
While the famous Blue Oval steals the show on this photo it is difficult to guarantee its location. My best guess is the rear quarter panel thanks to the arch-like shape at the bottom of the photo.
If my guess is true then it again looks as though there will be minimal aerodynamic features around the rear wheel arches. Perhaps the lack of intricate aero designs will further the importance of maximising any loopholes in the new spaceframe and bodywork regulations.
The difficulty to locate some of these photos again hints at how different the Rally1 cars could look compared to their predecessors.
M-Sport’s misleading mule?
So the key takeaways: based on a Fiesta, less aero, scaled body panels…
The technical regulations are aimed to reduce the costs of WRC’s top-tier cars so of course we can expect restrictions when it comes to level of aerodynamics we have witnessed over the past four years. Simplified transmission systems and differentials are other areas of Rally1 cost-cutting.
We can also expect unconventional bodywork and a more engineered chassis in general courtesy of the introduction of Rally1 spaceframes.
But can we say for sure that M-Sport’s Rally1 car will be based on a Ford Fiesta? Certainly not.
In an interview with MasMotor Chile last month, Malcolm Wilson revealed that M-Sport’s testing would begin with a mule car in March. He also stated we shouldn’t expect to see the “proper looking car” until July or August.
What M-Sport is testing now is likely an in-between 2021-22 rally car to focus on proving out the hybrid power unit that is so new to everyone in rallying.
This is normal, M-Sport did the same thing ahead of the 2017 regulations changes (see image below).
The mule car will provide vital data that engineers can sink their teeth into. It will prove invaluable to make sure their calculations, designs, and engineering thought processes are all in-line with what they can expect from WRC’s newest generation of rally cars.
The race to develop WRC’s best Rally1 car is well and truly underway. Four innocent photos has me excited. Let’s see who can unravel the regulations to get that crucial head start next year.
N.B. These are my interpretations of M-Sport’s social media photos. While I tried my best to represent the design concepts accurately, it doesn’t guarantee that I am 100% correct. If you have any thoughts on M-Sport’s 2022 teasers, I’d love to hear from you.
All photos courtesy of M-Sport