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Although the new machine will look the same as the current Fiesta, it is described as being 80% new under the skin. M-Sport engineers have developed the car’s 1.6-litre engine and made other improvements to the engine bay, radiator position, intercoolers, transmission, electronics, wiring harness and differentials.
“It’s probably one of the biggest changes we’ve ever done to any of the cars that we’ve had in our history since we started with the Focus,” Wilson explained. “And by the time we complete our final test in Cumbria next week, the new car will have covered around 5,000 kilometres. That’s more testing kilometres than we’ve done when we’ve launched a new car like the Focus, Fiesta or Super 2000 and taken it to its first rally.”
Regular M-Sport World Rally Team drivers Ott Tänak and Elfyn Evans have conducted the bulk of the testing mileage in recent months in a bid to ensure they feel completely happy with the car when it's given its competitive debut in Portugal (21-24 May).
“Ott and Elfyn have been working really well together and I think it’s important that our two main guys are happy,” Wilson said. “They’ve both been present at all the tests and they’ve given each other feedback. Hopefully that will enable us to come up with as good a setting as we can from day one.”
Given the size of the project that’s been undertaken to overhaul the Fiesta, M-Sport has got high hopes for its new challenger and Wilson is optimistic the new car will bring an improvement in fortunes.
He said: “With two young drivers we’ve got to be realistic. But I do feel that in the second half of the year – with the combination of the new car and the improvement in Ott and Elfyn’s experience levels – I’d like to think we can challenge for podiums in the second half of the season. That would be a strong result for us.”