The World Rally Championship breaks new ground next year as manufacturers integrate hybrid technology into World Rally Car replacing Rally1 regulations.
So far, M-Sport’s Ford Puma has been the most prevalent Rally1 car. Its 2021 test programme has already included Great Britain, Finland, France, and Sardinia.
The car’s development is a silver lining in a fairly dull WRC season for the Cumbria-based outfit. M-Sport has struggled to match the financial strength of Hyundai and Toyota who are currently duelling at the top of the championship.
Another sign of promise for M-Sport has been the performances of rising French star Adrien Fourmaux.
The 26-year-old scored an impressive fifth overall on his WRC debut in Croatia earlier this year before matching the result on the Safari Rally.
Speaking to France’s Rallye Sport, Fourmaux discussed how his recent test in M-Sport’s new Rally1 Puma went.
“It was a good thing to get back into [the car] a few days after the Ypres accident,” started Fourmaux, “without having the pressure of the competition.
“It was very interesting as it was the car’s first test on asphalt. The car can’t be perfect right away, that’s to be expected, but I felt a good development during the two days.
“Matthew Wilson took over from me for two more days. We can talk about it now, with everyone present, photos and videos, I’m not going to hide it.”
Fourmaux’s ferocious accident on Ypres Rally Belgium was a reminder of the speed of WRC’s current generation of World Rally Car. But how does Rally1 compare?
“It’s still too early to really see the level of performance and we haven’t yet made a direct comparison with the Fiesta WRC, I don’t know if it’s on the program.
“The car is obviously heavier, but since the power is greater with the hybrid, it gives a good kick to the ass when everything is on the way.
“Without the hybrid, we feel a lack of power compared to the current WRC. The reduction of the aero is the other most important point.
“With the center differential less, it can also be a bit more difficult to keep the car running under certain conditions.”
Photos from the Rally1 tests show how limited the aerodynamic devices are in comparison to current World Rally Cars. However, a beefy rear wing remains which combined with the added rear weight of Rally1’s hybrid unit will have a big impact on the car’s driveability.
“The goal of development is to spend as much as possible on the car,” Fourmaux told Rallye Sport. “And for that, we also have to see how everything behaves when looking for performance.
“I had never been to Ardèche, and it was really nice. A rally car is always fun, and this one too, of course. But with the hybrid, it’s still a big challenge.
“The FIA is still in the process of discussing how to use this additional power. I can’t talk too much about this subject because everyone may have different solutions.
“From what I understand, the FIA wants to make this as unpredictable as possible and prevent the teams from making technical differences on this.
“But with the current operation and the sudden arrival of power, I find that potentially dangerous. ”
Read Fourmaux’s full interview with Rallye Sport here where he discusses his position with M-Sport for next year as well as his accident in Belgium.