Ford became the first carmaker to reveal its challenger for the radically different World Rally Championship (WRC) regulations for 2022, pulling the covers off this Puma prototype at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The car will replace the Fiesta WRC and will be built to Rally1 rules, the latter taking the place of the World Rally Car that has existed in one form or another since 1997.
Despite the camouflage livery being used, there are a few visible links to the SUV, including the tall headlights and the large six-point front grille. The latter incorporates the Blue Oval within it instead of being below the badge as per the production model.
The difference here, apart from the usual wider fenders and the myriad of splitters, flics, wings and extra scoops, is that the competition car uses a three-door body shell not offered on the Puma (it actually looks to be a Fiesta body with the Puma’s headlights and grille grafted on it). This is possible because Rally1 cars are no longer based on production models but are instead built on a standardised tubular steel chassis.
The move is said to improve safety and reduce costs and means that the latest generation of rally cars are silhouette racers that bear little to no relation to their production counterparts. They also utilise a common hybrid powertrain that mates the existing 1.6 litre turbocharged four-cylinder to a new 100 kW (134 hp) electric motor and a 3.9 kWh battery.
Electrical assistance is limited to bursts of up to three seconds, using kinetic energy recuperated under braking. The battery can also be charged by plugging it in between stages, with a full charge taking approximately 25 minutes. The air- and liquid-cooled hybrid system weighs 95 kg and is housed in a ballistic-strength casing to protect against debris and g-forces in an accident.
From 2022 onwards, the championship will also use a fossil-free fuel, blending synthetic and bio-degradable elements that WRC says is 100% sustainable. The prototype will be demonstrated until July 10 by current M-Sport (the team that runs the works operation) driver Adrien Fourmaux and test driver Matthew Wilson before being used as a development vehicle ahead of the 2022 season.
“The new era of WRC cars is one of the biggest technological advancements in WRC to date. The introduction of the hybrid means that the cars will be more powerful than ever whilst also directly reflecting the powertrains within their road going counterparts,” said M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson. “The switch to the Puma is very exciting with the name already having rally heritage, the car looks fantastic and I cannot wait to see it at the start line of the famous Monte Carlo Rally in early 2022.
“Launching this new car at Goodwood is also very special, being one of the most iconic events in the motorsport calendar. I and the whole of M-Sport look forward to continuing the very successful partnership with Ford to deliver results and keep Ford at the forefront during this new and very exciting era.”
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