Five key takeaways from M-Sport’s Puma Rally1 launch

This week, M-Sport Ford revealed a prototype of its 2022 World Rally Championship challenger, the M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1. It’s the first time since 2010’s Ford Focus WRC, a non-Fiesta model will be used by M-Sport’s rally division.

2022 will also mark the arrival of hybrid technology alongside the return of tubular chassis as WRC enters its new Rally1 era.

In this story, Rally Insight guides you through the five most important points we can learn from M-Sport’s Goodwood Festival of Speed launch.

It’s a Puma!

Finally, after many rumours and a false dawn in M-Sport’s Fiesta-based test mule, M-Sport has confirmed it will move into WRC’s next generation showcasing Ford’s compact SUV.

A road-going Puma is of course somewhat chunkier than a Fiesta but WRC’s new spaceframe regulations mean the bodywork can be tweaked to get the end result revealed by M-Sport at Goodwood.

Ford branding

M-Sport’s switch to Puma and its commitment to WRC’s hybrid future hints at the team’s continued close relationship with Ford. We can only speculate the extent of Ford’s backing but these changes coupled with considerable Ford and Ford Performance branding on the Rally1 prototype mean that they’re definitely onboard.

After all, it makes complete sense for Ford to chip into hybrid’s marketing potential and M-Sport’s engineering prowess.

“Ford is 100 per cent committed to an electrified future,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance.

“The white heat of competition has been responsible for many of the innovations that appear in our road cars today

“The M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1 will put hybrid power to the ultimate test, and prove that the technology is capable of delivering thrilling performance.”

Cost-cutting aerodynamics

It comes as no surprise that M-Sport’s Rally1 prototype has lost practically all of the aerodynamic features that grace the current generation of World Rally Car. The rear wing looks to be the sole surviving aerodynamic element.

Gone are the dive planes, winglets, arch vents, and diffuser.

Less aero means less grip to lean on through rallying’s profusion of corners. A downgrade to sequential five-speed gearboxes, no active centre differential, and added power from the hybrid unit should make Rally1 cars quite the challenge to drive.

The loss of add-on aerodynamic devices put extra importance on the features that remain.

M-Sport’s Puma Rally1 sports a sizable front splitter which plays an important role in restricting air flow under the Puma’s floor. While there is no rear diffuser to create the area of low pressure (and subsequent downforce) witnessed between 2017 and 2021, if engineers can increase the underbody area from the front to rear of the Rally1 car then some downforce can still be generated.

Another smart element to M-Sport’s Puma design is the channel running just above the sill at each side of the car. This increases the area behind the front wheels to remove the region of high pressure turbulent air within the wheel arches.

The wide flat sill is key to seal the underbody air flow from the turbulent spillages from the front wheel arches.

Rally1 may lack the complex downforce-generating aerodynamic features we currently enjoy but that doesn’t mean WRC designers can afford a break this time around.

Finalising the car’s bodywork to minimise drag and remove any inefficient areas is key to ensure their finished product pierces through the air as smooth as possible. Remember, less drag ultimately means higher top speeds.

Battery cooling

M-Sport’s press release provided some more information on the battery used with WRC’s introduction of hybrid technology.

“Weighing 95 kg, the hybrid system is liquid- and air-cooled and housed in a ballistic-strength casing to resist the impact of debris and g-forces in the event of an accident.

“In addition, FIA WRC Rally1 competitors will use a fossil-free fuel from the 2022 season, blending synthetic and bio-degradable elements to produce a fuel that is 100 per cent sustainable.”

This all has been done in a bid to not only retain WRC’s current manufacturers but also with the ambition of attracting new ones.

As I’ve previously written, the intake area of the battery’s cooling inlets is a massive design element to master. The inlets create drag so teams will develop their design to provide enough air to cool the batteries while keeping drag to a minimum.

A rear-view snippet of the Rally1 Puma shows where the hot air will be expelled from the battery unit with the help of cooling fans. Designers can use the hot air expelled from the battery area outlet to work in harmony with air exiting the car’s underbody (previously where the diffuser was located).

The additional air flow from the battery outlet will draw air away from the car’s wake, encouraging lower pressure at the rear of the car and therefore more downforce and grip.

It’s only a prototype

Perhaps the most exciting piece of M-Sport’s reveal was the word “prototype” that ominously followed Ford Puma Rally1. Each of the design areas mentioned above has so much scope for additional design and development.

Before testing began this year engineers will have trawled through endless computer-based models and simulations to design their first take on the Rally1 regulations.

The feedback given by drivers (and computers) during prototype testing will now be used to refine designs before Rally1.0 hits Rally Monte-Carlo’s famous asphalt in January.

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Photos courtesy of M-Sport Ford

Adam Hall

Brought up in the Irish countryside, Adam was never far away from the world of rallying. From following local events like the Circuit of Ireland and the Ulster Rally, Adam now puts the stories from stages all around the world into words through his website Rally Insight.

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