Head of Rally Engineering at M-Sport and the man behind the all-new Ford Fiesta WRC, Chris Williams gives us his thoughts ahead of Rallye Monte-Carlo.
When did work begin on the Ford Fiesta WRC?
“We’ve had people working on the concept since the middle of 2015. As with any new car, the first job is to get an understanding of the regulations and where we can explore new ideas or make changes. This was particularly hard at the outset as the regulations were very fluid.”
How much freedom did the new regulations allow?
“These new regulations have definitely provided greater scope for doing something different – and you can see that in the aerodynamics alone. Working in secrecy each team has come up with something slightly different, although there are some themes that are common amongst cars.
“We set an aero balance target and we’ve achieved that. You constantly have to balance the equation of drag, downforce, durability and robustness. We’re looking for efficiency all around and everyone has had to calculate what risks they’re willing to take when it comes to the balance between performance and durability.”
How much of the Fiesta WRC has been designed from scratch?
“A lot is the simple answer. Almost every part of the car has been specifically optimized for this project with very little if any compromise. We’ve been focused to build the best car we possibly can and we’ve had everything we needed to get the job done.
“If we take the transmission as an example, the old unit was taken from the Ford Fiesta S2000 and developed for use in WRC. This year, the transmission has been specifically designed and optimised purely as a component for this car and the new regulations.”
Has the development process gone to plan?
“It’s involved a lot of hard work. We have a small, but strong team of people working around the clock behind the scenes. The design guys have been flat-out and we are pretty hopeful we can punch above our weight.
“We implemented as much as we possibly could. With any new car there are always a few areas that you would have liked to have investigated further if time allowed, but I think that is the same for everyone. Anything that we thought we had an advantage on has been incorporated.
“We have put absolutely everything we could into this project. At this point it’s hard to gauge how competitive the car will be, but we will soon see! We’ve definitely made a huge step up from our previous car.”
What’s it like to have the four-time World Champion behind the wheel of the Fiesta WRC?
“It brings a lot of pressure for sure, but it also brings a massive opportunity. The motivation here has stepped up two or three notches and everyone is extremely driven to deliver the very best over the course of the season.
“I think it’s probably fair to say that everyone was in need of a little boost at the end of last year, and Sébastien [Ogier] and Julien [Ingrassia] have certainly provided that. They got in the car and said yes, that’s a 2017 world rally car, so that’s a very good start.”
What will the atmosphere in the team by like at the start of Rallye Monte-Carlo?
“I don’t think we’ll sleep at all before the rally starts! Waiting for that first split time to come through will be a very anxious moment and it will be interesting to see if it will be a straight fight or if the conditions play a deciding factor.
“But, we’ve got the best chance that we’ve had in years. We’ve got the best drivers that we could possibly get and we need to go out there and do well. It’s as simple as that, we need to deliver, so the pressure is on!”