Friday | 09 Jul 2021

Puma launch steals show at Goodwood

The south coast of England in the middle of a British summer might not seem like the natural environment for the birth of the World Rally Championship’s next generation – but Goodwood’s Festival of Speed provided just that on Thursday.

At shortly after one o’clock in the afternoon, a radically liveried Ford was wheeled out of its tent and down towards a holding area close to the Duke of Richmond’s driveway – a stretch of Tarmac which provides one of the summer’s most talked about motorsport events.

The impact was immediate. Fans stopped looking at decades old McLarens, averted their gaze from a Gulf-liveried Porsche 917 and zoned in on the Ford Puma Rally1.

After watching hours of testing footage on the internet, to finally see one of these cars in the flesh was something special. Suddenly, 2022 and the WRC’s ultra-exciting hybrid class seemed to have landed on the doorstep.

Watching M-Sport’s chief test driver Matthew Wilson launch the Puma off the line looked and sounded like any kind of regular World Rally Car. Through the gears and the first two right handers at the bottom of the hill, the car looked utterly planted and very, very fast.

In all honesty, it wasn’t that easy to spot much of a difference between today and tomorrow at Goodwood. Until Wilson returned the car to the team in the paddock. Silently.

Silent, that is except for the transmission whine and the stones flicking off the hots Pirellis beneath it.

Wilson has completed thousands of kilometres in the car now, so this is nothing new for him. But launching off the line on asphalt still brings a smile.

“You certainly know all of that power’s there,” he said. “It’s a proper shot in the back to get you off the line.

M-Sport Ford Puma Reveal

“It’s a really nice car to drive, it feels stable and definitely very quick. And it’s great to come down to Goodwood and show the car to people.”

Goodwood’s a motorsport mecca with rallying very close to its heart. A few years after the hillclimb, the Duke of Richmond contacted Hannu Mikkola to ask him to design a rally stage through the woods at the top of the hill.

Horribly slippery because of its chalk base, the world’s finest drivers have come to West Sussex expecting an easy ride – only to find one of the most challenging and technical stretches of road running between the trees.

Running purely in Tarmac trim, the Puma didn’t make it into the woods, but there was no shortage of rally history on display – especially from Prodrive, which celebrated 40 years in business with a fine display of its cars down the ages.

BGMsport were also prominent, bringing 17 cars to Goodwood, ranging from an ex-Mikkola Audi Quattro E2 to a stunning Richard Burns Peugeot 206 WRC.

And with five-time British Rally Champion Jimmy McRae driving them, there was plenty to cheer from all eras of the World Rally Championship.

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